Photographs in the Archive

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While the word ‘Archive’ is commonly thought of as referring to a building where old books and documents are kept, they can (and often do) include other items as well. Photographs especially are very useful tools in documenting the past.

Photographs often come in to the Ashburton Museum Archive with records of clubs and family groups, or they may come as separate collections. We have had a few interesting collections brought in recently.

One was a photograph collection of Sister Seaton of the Ashburton Hospital. Regular readers may recall a series of images of children in hospital which we featured a few months ago. In response to that article more images have come into the collection. These include more children’s snaps, but also images of the Hospital, as well as sports teams and other activities the nurses took part in.

Another collection is that pertaining to the Fairfield Cricket Club. The club, now closed, was formed in 1899 and was part of the social activities associated with the Fairton meat works. The first recorded match I can locate was on the 18th November – when they played Tinwald.

The Fairfield Cricket Club collection consists of a number of photographs, records of player’s achievements, and other archives. One clipping in the collection relates how, in 1937, the team walked off the pitch after they disagreed with an umpire’s ruling. Among the photograph’s subjects is Pearce Willis, who apparently played cricket even though he had only one arm.

I was also amused that one early team had a dog as a mascot, while in later years the mascot was a small boy (was this an improvement I wonder?). While this collection is not as large as other sports archives we hold, it is significant, as due to arson attacks much of their history has been lost – this is all that there is to tell the story of a long running work and community based activity that is now no longer active.

We can learn so much from photographs, postcards and other visual images. They say a picture can paint a thousand words. Having a photograph can often convey information easier and clearer than lots of words, which can be misinterpreted. Naturally people like seeing things – imagine reading this newspaper without pictures that can tell or add to the story.

We have many researchers looking for images of their house, family members, or events. We can’t help them all, but maybe you can? While we are always grateful to receive photos into our collection, we are just as happy to borrow photographs and scan them. We are most interested in locations and people. If the image is named, dated and with a few details that’s great, however even local photos with no information can be of use. We may take that photo of an unknown group outside a house and use it to tell a story about clothing, cars or even methods of house construction.

Your snaps need not be of well-known ‘well-heeled’ people but ‘average’ members of the community. Posed family shots are a tremendous find for family historians, but social historians are also keen to see informal, candid shots of people playing cricket, having a picnic or working in the fields.

A positive benefit for people who loan or donate images is that if disaster should occur, such as happened to the Fairton Cricket Club, we can supply a copy of the scanned photos. Also on a few occasions we may even be able to help identify the image, due to our knowledge of the history of the town, or from similar photos we may already hold.

The Museum Archive is full of interesting glimpses of Ashburton’s past, we invite you to come and view them, or contribute some of your own collections and history.

By Kathleen Stringer


  1. Pearce Willis, the one armed cricketer from Fairton Cricket Club. ©Ashburton Museum.
  2. Three cricket players in smart uniforms. ©Ashburton Museum.
  3. The 1914 -15 team with Leo the mascot dog. ©Ashburton Museum.
  4. The 1952 trained staff basketball team wearing pleated smocks. ©Ashburton Museum.
  5. The 1953 Ashburton Hospital float with nurses dressed in period costume, showing the years since 1903. ©Ashburton Museum.
  6. Menorlue house when owned by the Hospital. ©Ashburton Museum.


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