Growing archives – donations in 2020

Before the COVID-19 pandemic brought the town and district to a quiet halt in late March 2020, the team at Ashburton Museum were hard at work with a mixture of hands-on and digital projects.

We had to work from home as best we could, mainly on digital projects, throughout lockdown levels 4 and 3.

After lockdown, the team were adjusting to our old work lives just like everybody else, and for myself that included getting back on track with processing donations and accessioning interesting archives and photographs.

From the start of the year until lockdown began in March, I had catalogued 320 individual archives items, which include photographs, minutes, financial papers, postcards, as well as many other interesting bits and pieces relating to the history of Ashburton District.

It is always wonderful to see researchers come in, sit down, and find themselves completely immersed in their past as I guide them through boxes, folders, and digital archives records.

This week’s heritage page focuses on some of my favourite archives donations that I had processed in 2020 – not including the lockdown period of course – and I hope that some of these will prove interesting to somebody other than myself.

Digital and physical

My first favourite that I would like to share seems pretty mundane, but it shows the importance of why we document buildings before they disappear.

In January we received three digital photos from Tricroft Properties of the house at 359 West Street before its demolition.

The property was known as Weatherly House, and was built in 1910 by Miles Constable Segers, eventually earning its name in the 1990s as a bed & breakfast.

These digital photos from Tricroft are significant to us as they supplement the information and photographs we already have on the property from years ago, giving us a stark comparison between the house’s prime and the end of its 110-year life.

One of the most significant donations we have received last year came from Tony Rippin, Curator of Documentary History at South Canterbury Museum.

Tony brought us a great variety of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union records for Ashburton and Timaru, which includes photographs, minute books, cradle rolls, and scrapbooks relating to the important and historic organisation.

The date range for these WCTU records spans just over a century, with the earliest dated material being a register of members for the Wesleyan-Methodist Temperance Society, Tinwald, beginning in August 1888.

It is thanks to Tony that a gap in our local knowledge has been filled by these records and images, and we are very grateful to him and the team at South Canterbury Museum!

Our growing archives

Some donations are significant not only because of the materials themselves, but also in sheer volume.

We were lucky enough to have been donated the records and minutes of the Ashburton Herb Society, from its inception in 1979 all the way to its recent end.

The Herb Society celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2019, and dissolved the same year.

After cataloguing all materials, keeping them all in original order, the grand total of catalogued items came to a whopping figure of 115 catalogue records in our PastPerfect catalogue system.

Every loose report, page of minutes, and relevant clipping has been numbered and housed in conservation-grade folders and polypropylene enclosures, and put in an archival box to stay preserved for the decades to come.

We had many other interesting things come through our doors last year, including many more photographs, books, minutes, and documents.

If there is one thing you need to know about the team at Ashburton Museum, it’s that we always expect the unexpected when it comes to donations and we welcome many different things into our archives and object collections – if it has significance to Ashburton’s past and people, we are most interested.

By Connor Lysaght

This article was modified for this blog and was originally published in the Ashburton Guardian, 26th of May 2020.


  1. Photograph of the house at 359 West Street, also known as Weatherly, before its demolition in January this year.
  2. Photograph of Ashburton WCTU members, taken in 1921 in front of the Grigg statue.
  3. All of these minutes, reports, and documents relating to the Ashburton Herb Society are now a permanent part of our community archives collection.
  4. A recently acquired photograph of members of the N.Z. Scottish Regiment, 2nd Battalion standing in front of the YMCA. Ashburton Racecourse, 1942.

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