“Nothing happens unless first we dream” - Carl Sandburg
THE TREASURY dream began around the kitchen tables of a handful of heritage-passionate Thames locals in 2000. For several years this group – The Hauraki Thames Indexing Group – had volunteered their time indexing records held at the Thames School of Mines. But more and more it was coming to their attention that the district’s important historic paper records were being lost. Stored in damp sheds, gathering dust in boxes under beds, or worse, taken to the rubbish tip or burned, there was nowhere for the documentation telling the stories of the past to be held safely for future generations to explore
Acknowledging the presence of indigenous peoples on this whenua/land for centuries before colonisation brought the arrival of the early European pioneers, the group of volunteers recognised the importance of preserving the post-colonisation history of this district; records of the thousands of gold miners, kauri millers, industrialists, entrepreneurs, and enablers who flocked to the Thames-Coromandel, and Hauraki districts in the 19th century, taking the population of Thames to a peak of 22,000 inhabitants in the late 1800s, New Zealand’s second largest centre of population, behind Dunedin, at that time.
Led by Geraldine and Morrie Dunwoodie, this group took on the massive responsibility of becoming the kaitiaki/minder of the regions’ treasures – the records of its heritage. In 2003 The Coromandel Heritage Trust (a registered charitable trust) was formed with the aim of preserving the records - the documentary heritage - of the Thames, Coromandel, and Hauraki communities, an area named by Tangata Whenua as Te Tara o Ika a Māui. For years the volunteers worked out of borrowed spaces, then in 2009 the Trust was granted a long-term renewable lease of the newly restored Carnegie Library, 705 Queen Street, Thames by the Thames-Coromandel District Council.
The next step was to raise funds to build a temperature and humidity controlled Archive. The TCDC-owned section next door to the Carnegie Library was secured by the Trust. Architects were engaged with a brief that their design of the archive could not take the eye away from the magnificence of the old Carnegie Library. With astonishing community and public funder support, and the drive and dedication of innumerable volunteer hours, the Trust not only raised the required funds for the build, but, thanks to the community spirit of their local contractors, completed the build under budget.
Fourteen years of planning and fundraising culminated in the official opening of The Coromandel Heritage Trust’s state-of-the-art $1.1 million Archive in March 2014. Today the Archive stores and protects an ever-expanding collection while the Carnegie Library houses the Reading Room and office spaces.
The Treasury exists because a handful of heritage-passionate locals dared to dream. The Treasury is proof of what individuals with the power of community behind them are capable of achieving. And The Treasury continues to exist because of the commitment of our extraordinarily generous volunteers, our two District Councils, our membership, our local business community and the support of key public funders. Today “community” enables The Treasury to undertake the mahi/work of collection, housing, preservation and making accessible the paper-based records of the history of the people, the organisations and the businesses of our rohe. Community is the lifeblood of The Treasury.
This quote was the opening statement of The Coromandel Heritage Trust’s successful 2013 application to Lottery Environment & Heritage which was the final enabler of the Archive build. Daring to dream is what has created the Archive we see today at The Treasury.