Volume 12

The Treasury Project - My Journey

Geraldine Dunwoodie

Nothing happens unless first we dream
- Carl Sandburg

In March 2014, The Coromandel Heritage Trust officially opened its state-of-the-art $1.1 million archive in Thames – part of The Treasury complex, a History and Family Research Centre for the Coromandel Hauraki region. This was the culmination of fourteen years of planning and fundraising by an extremely focussed group, firstly as a steering committee, then as a Trust. It’s been an ambitious undertaking for a small rural town, but with the region having such an early and interesting history, the Trust saw it as necessary, and of value to future generations. New Zealand is a young country and has a chance to keep its history safe for future generations - if we start now.

The Coromandel Hauraki Family History and Research Centre, 705 Queen Street, Thames.
Source: D Wilton, The Treasury Collection.

And now the Trust is about to hold a celebration to mark ten years since The Treasury Research Centre opened. I thought it would be timely to record the history of this project, from its germination about nineteen years ago to the provision of a state-of-the-art archive.

How did such an ambitious project get started? For several years I was part of the Hauraki Thames Indexing Group, a group of ladies who for thirteen years had been indexing the records held at the Thames School of Mines. We were continually asked where in Thames people could go to find out about their early family. We also had boxes of material handed in by people who didn’t know what to do with it when they cleaned out their parents’ house. So we were getting quite a nice collection – in our own homes. The School of Mines Indexing Group also had records from a disbanded local genealogy group, and a set of Government Gazettes rescued quite by chance when a member visited the courthouse and saw them all piled up ready to go to the dump!! These were stored in the little old morgue building at the Stamper Battery.

I had been researching my family history for several years and knew the thrill of finding an unexpected story about my ancestors. I am also a fan of TV shows such as ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ and ‘Finding Your Family’, and I am always impressed with how far back some countries are able to go with their records. The tears, and the joy, as the participants in these programmes find out about their families affected me too. Slowly I came to think that with the number of people who passed through Thames in the goldmining era it was important to keep their stories safe. So for a couple of years, over lunch after a morning of indexing, I casually brought up the idea of a genealogy room in Thames to store records and make them available for the public to research.

When I thought there was enough support, I approached the Mayor, Chris Lux, to see if Council had a spare room we could use to house the records, but no luck. However, as a result, Chris and his wife Kaye made a visit to the School of Mines one Thursday, and Chris later said he 'was blown away by this group of women in winter coats and fingerless gloves beavering away every week in a freezing room in the middle of winter.' During his first term in office Chris talked to people in the community. He became aware of the importance of this extended region in the early development of New Zealand, and he found that people were concerned about the loss of old records. Sometimes the loss of records was permanent - people emptying out a family house and taking everything to the dump, or burning it. Sometimes it was being sent to other repositories out of the area. Sometimes it was handed in to various organisations - who didn’t have security from fire, light, humidity, temperature damage, and even theft.

Just before the elections in 2001 Chris came to the conclusion that there was indeed a real need for the collecting and safe storage of any records documenting the history of the area - photos, early books, family documents, business records etc. He felt that he should address the requirement that Council also attend to cultural matters, and he thought that this could be a very worthwhile and interesting project. In 2002 Chris asked me to prepare a document showing why I thought a heritage centre was important. He felt he had to see how a project like this would work in practice. As a result, Chris took three of the Indexing Group and some Council staff to the National Archives in Auckland. When we arrived they had a wonderful display of Thames records out for us to look at. Amazingly, the first table I approached and the first book I looked at was open at a page signed by my great grandfather – surely an omen. Looking at his original signature and knowing he had handled this page was a treat, and reinforced why we needed to undertake The Treasury project. We were also given a tour behind the scenes which opened our eyes to all sorts of possibilities. We went on to the Pukekohe Genealogy Room, then in rooms above the public library. Chris saw the two different aspects of storing early history - the formal and official records in one place, and the more accessible family records in the other. In both places we were given the utmost help and encouragement to proceed with this venture.

A second trip was made – this time to the newly-opened NZ Society of Genealogy Rooms at Panmure where one of their committee filled us all with great enthusiasm and heaps of ideas. This visit led to a small group of us volunteering once a month in Panmure for a couple of years. This was a great learning curve – the only downside being that on one visit I had my car stolen and it was a bit of a mission to get back to Thames. We then went on to the Anglican Church’s boutique archive built under the Cathedral in Parnell, which really got the ball rolling. Janet Foster had gone to great lengths to be of help, and in particular she had asked their project manager, David Woodall, to address the group. This was extremely valuable. Their archival area is state-of-the-art and had been funded from grants applied for by David. This left Chris feeling that the project could definitely be undertaken. Again, our project met with much praise and offers of help if needed.

From here, Chris went on to form a small steering committee to think about what was needed. It wouldn’t have happened without you Chris!!

The decision was made at an early stage that this was to be for the benefit of ALL people of the Peninsula and Plains region, and that it would be headed by a charitable trust. One or two more local people with a keen interest in the project were invited to join the steering committee, as well as representatives from other communities on the peninsula - Thames Coast, Coromandel, Kennedy Bay, Mercury Bay, Pauanui Hauraki Plains. Coromandel historian Sue Wright and developer Ian Hopper of Pauanui fame were among them, and we also had kaumatuas Kem Tukukino and Paki Harrison, both highly respected and full of praise for the project.

Right from the start, there was an awareness of the need to differentiate between the sort of things an archive collects - the rare, the fragile, the originals, things that need to be kept permanently under very careful conditions and brought out for viewing only on request. This contrasts with a family history room with books on the shelves for people to look at without restriction. This would include anything to do with the families and places of the extended area such as family and school reunion books, jubilee books, newer history books of the area, family trees, newspaper articles, certificates etc. So it was seen as very important for an archive room to be attached to this reading room. This became an important part of the planning - the provision of a family history room with an archive attached as well. In both cases, secure viewing conditions would apply - only pencil and paper, no handbags or briefcases. Lockers would be provided for people to store their personal belongings while they did their research.

What to call the planned centre?? Julie Tibby came up with The Treasury – very apt considering its contents. Michael King accepted the position of Patron.

The project was progressing well until the floods of 2002 which brought it to a complete standstill. Council had other things to think about - human needs were more important at that time. When the time was right to continue with the project, Mayor Chris picked me up one Saturday, and we drove around Thames looking at possible sites. Several possible sites were considered, but most were unsuitable for one reason or another. Ironically, the Carnegie Building was the first we drove past and was Chris’s first choice. At that time, it was being used by another community group, and so this was not a solution for the Trust. We didn’t want to cause another community group to have to find a new home.

Eventually, the decision was made to build a purpose-designed building on land owned by Council beside the Museum. David Woodall, former project manager for the Anglican Archive, was engaged by Chris as a consultant. This was very beneficial at that early stage because he had already overseen the building of an archive and was aware of all the specific needs for this type of building. He introduced us to architect John Sinclair from the award-winning firm Architectus in Auckland and who had also been involved with the Anglican archive.

In 2003, a charitable trust was formed – The Coromandel Heritage Trust. An Executive Committee was also formed, of which I was a member for sixteen years. In August 2004, we had a ‘launch’ to which the community was invited.

The public launch of The Treasury Project, Council Chambers, Thames, 2004.
Source: G Dunwoodie.

Window Display, Pollen Street, 2004.
Source: G Dunwoodie.

Council provided us with a section beside the Museum on Pollen Street, and we started to raise money for a research centre with an archive room. Fundraising was difficult because we had nothing to show potential donors. They wondered if it would actually come to pass. We publicised our project wherever we could – displays, speaking to community groups, handing out information brochures, handing out Pioneer Family forms.

Early in the Trust’s story (2005), I was approached by Kae Lewis who wanted to know why we didn’t have a website to help advertise what we were doing. I told her that I had prepared several pages in anticipation but because of priorities, we didn’t have the funds for a website. Kae immediately offered to design a website, and generously she and husband Evan paid for hosting it – and still do. This site did exactly what she said it would do, attracted interest, members and donations of records. Years later, Kae still continues as webmaster and editor of the very interesting online Journal. Kae’s husband Evan also began to play a large part in the website after The Treasury opened. With a background in IT, Evan manages the online data base. With Pauline Stammers spending hours entering and sending Evan indexing records from this end, the online data base called The Treasury Index currently holds references to 500,000 fully searchable names of people and places. The Treasury website is highly thought-of and much praised. Although Kae and Evan are kiwis living in America, they are so easy to work with. If I hit the right time of the day, I can email and ask Kae to add or delete something, and within half an hour I get an email back saying 'Done'. This is as good as it gets. Kae and Evan’s dedication to the website has helped raise the profile of The Treasury, and I have always hugely appreciated their support and enthusiasm.

At about this time, Linda Hansen, a kiwi living in Switzerland, offered to digitise our collection of Pioneer Register forms so we could put them on a computer at The Treasury, and also add them to The Treasury Index online. Once she started doing this, she became very interested in researching all she could find about each family and adding it to the computer programme. Linda donated the programme this is stored on, and she updates it each year when she visits New Zealand. The first gentleman to use this resource at The Treasury was extremely happy to pay $60 for downloading all his family information. Great for The Treasury and a real validation of all the work Linda does.

We continued to publicise what we were doing wherever possible – dressing in period costumes and having a stall at the Thames Market every Saturday to let the community know what we were planning, writing Treasury Tales to be read over Coromandel FM, talking to community groups, and starting a Heritage Day at Victoria Park organised by Judy Vedder-Price and Pam French. This became a huge undertaking, and one which eventually became a Heritage Week. And most importantly, gathering more records. The unforeseen benefit of all this publicity was that the community became much more aware of heritage, and over time, this resulted in a lot more heritage activity.

Heritage Day, Victoria Park, Thames, 2006. The Treasury Tent
Source: G Dunwoodie.

Heritage Day, Victoria Park, Thames, 2008.
Source: G Dunwoodie.

A generous donation enabled us to employ Architectus in Auckland to design a building to sit beside the Thames Museum. Architect John Sinclair loved Grahamstown, and said the roofline and shop frontages were unique in New Zealand and must be retained.

But it was still hard work trying to raise funds with nothing concrete to show people. They said they fully supported what we were doing, but would it go ahead? We wondered how long our energy and our passion for the project could last.

A dream doesn't become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work - Colin Powell

It was getting to the stage where we had to make a decision about how much longer we continued planning this ambitious project. Then in 2007, Council had to make a decision about what to do about the old Carnegie Library which was in a sad state of disrepair and didn’t meet earthquake standards. Luckily Council had the foresight to undertake an expensive restoration rather than pull it down as had been suggested. They immediately advertised for expressions of interest from the public. We heard about this by chance. Deputy Mayor Adrian Catran asked one of our Trustees why on earth we hadn’t considered the use of the Carnegie Library, but we hadn’t known it had been advertised for Expression of Interest from the public! The Trustees felt it would have been remiss of them not to consider this as an option. With only about three days to go, I got busy working with architect John Sinclair to draw up a strong application. The end result was that the Trust was granted a renewable 30-year lease of the building. For the Trustees, this felt as if the lovely old building was being put to use for a purpose very similar to its original use, that of a reading room/library. We felt sure Andrew Carnegie would be pleased.

Restoration work at the old Carnegie Library undertaken by the Thames Coromandel District Council began. This was a huge task. Architect, John Sinclair became consultant to the TCDC. He had a passion for seeing old buildings restored and given a new lease of life. Wherever possible, original features were kept, and modern features included as unobtrusively as possible. Knowing what the building was going to become, John was able to incorporate several features into the restoration, such as shelving, computer points, security system, new kitchen etc. The Trust used $80,000 of its funds to outfit the building with anything special to its needs. These were exciting days, filled with anticipation. We worked hard on collecting records so we would have something to put on the shelves when we opened. And I made several applications to funding agencies for shelving, chairs, lockers, ring-back folders, plastic sleeves, and many other necessary items.

The Carnegie Library Restoration 2008.
Source: G Dunwoodie.

Opening Day at The Treasury, 2009. From the left: Geraldine Dunwoodie, Dame Anne Salmond (guest speaker), Morrie Dunwoodie (Chairman of The Coromandel Heritage Trust), Sandra Goudie MP.
Source: G Dunwoodie, taken by D Legge.

Restoration work completed, I had a week of very late nights filing loose material which had been handed in to us over the past few years. We were able to provide a good collection as soon as we moved in, in 2009. Thames historian, Althea Barker very quickly filled folders with information on every early Thames business, and every goldmine in the area we cover. We had vital, and interesting, information to hand immediately.

By default, I became the ‘go-to’ person – nobody else put their hand up for the job. I was on duty on some of the days we were open, and spent two days a week at The Treasury working on records. I spent the days at home working on the computer, starting with eating my breakfast over the computer as I worked - and not finishing until it was time for dinner. For ten years, my life wasn’t my own. Luckily our family were very understanding and put up with us being too busy, from time to time, to do things with them.

We were lucky that we had such a great group on the Board and Executive Committee. Many of these were Indexing ladies from the School of Mines indexing project who went on to join the Trust, go on the committee, join The Treasury Indexing Group, and are still with us today. Several of them have given a huge amount of time to The Treasury since it opened.

We hadn’t wasted time over those first few years of planning when we didn’t have a home. Meetings were held upstairs at Morrie Dunwoodie’s office, and then Tourism Coromandel offered us the use of their meeting room which continued until the stairs became too difficult for one of the committee. Tourism Coromandel also paid for the design of our logo, and various posters and invitations, and Jim Archibald gave good advice – including the idea of forming a Club of 64 to help with our fund-raising. The Thames Museum then kindly let us use one of their rooms.

Forming a charitable trust meant we had to think about why we were doing this, what we hoped to achieve, and how we would achieve it.

The aims of the Trust as set out in our trust deed are:

  • To plan, promote, secure funding and manage the establishment of a heritage and archival repository, and to oversee its ongoing functions.
  • To encourage the collection and preservation of all historical material from the Thames, Coromandel, Hauraki, Mercury Bay and Ohinemuri areas.
  • To promote the historical significance of these areas.
  • To provide a facility which will encourage people to visit these areas to research their family history.
  • To increase the store of local knowledge.
  • To provide educational and advisory assistance and programmes to individuals and groups.

From the project’s inception we set ourselves high standards. While we had been waiting for a ‘home’, we had worked on policies. These have only needed to be tweaked to fit them into their new home. They included policies on Ethics, Treaty of Waitangi, Governance, Management, Health and Safety, and Collection policies including Accessions, Storage and De-Accessions amongst others. We felt strongly that if people were handing in their treasures they needed to know that they would be very safe and looked after correctly. I also completed Te Papa’s Standards for Small Museums, a long but very worthwhile course looking at the care of the collection, care of the volunteers and care of the visitors. I am currently working on adapting this to use as a checklist to assess whether The Treasury is maintaining its standards and to show where more work is needed.

Having a home made a huge difference to collecting records, and they started arriving from the day of our official opening and onwards to today, keeping us very busy. We very much enjoy working in this lovely old building of national and international importance, and we are pleased to have returned it nearly to the purpose for which Andrew Carnegie donated money in 1905. Having a home and items on the shelves also made it MUCH easier for fund raising because we had something to show people. Suddenly we weren’t being turned down any more.

It had always been one of our goals to provide a state-of-the-art temperature, light and dust-controlled archive (designed to national standards). The property next-door was secured, and Architectus (John Sinclair consultant architect) designed an archive to be attached to the Carnegie Library. John had a great vision for what he hoped would be an iconic building - not a reproduction of a heritage building, but a modern design respecting what he said was the unique architecture of the Grahamstown area. This in itself caused much discussion – a VERY modern building in the heritage end of Thames?? Our only brief to the architects was that the old Carnegie Library had to always stand out. We took their advice that the best way to do this was to build a very modern building beside it – and it works! This wasn’t without controversy in the community – a modern building at the heritage end of town!! There will always be people who don’t like modern architecture, but when I’ve shown people through the new addition I always explain the architect’s rationale. It mightn’t change their minds about modern architecture, but you can see the penny drop, and they agree with the principle behind the design. And on the plus side, we have had cars scream to a halt as they return from a holiday up the coast, and the driver has dashed in to ask the name of the architects.

Fund-raising continued with urgency. We raised a third of the total cost ourselves before we could apply to the funders. I had to time the funding applications. Some funders have one application a year, some three. Some let you know in a matter of weeks, some in three months. It required planning to get them all lined up so we knew we had all the funds in place at the right time. We reached our target, and the Trustees made the decision to go ahead. Special thanks must go to Trust Waikato, the Sir John Logan Campbell Trust, Lion Foundation, and the Whitney Chisholm Family Trust. And a huge thank you to Lotteries Environment and Heritage. Their funding application was a nightmare to put together because of their requirements for so many different records, but it was the one that gave us the confidence to say 'Yes, we will proceed.' Chairman and trustee, Morrie Dunwoodie, trustee and treasurer Gary Meek and Trust secretary Marilyn Dodds (planner) were absolutely crucial to this project. We were so lucky to have them on the team. In the meantime, the Treasury office could no longer be used because it was full of boxes of records waiting for an archive in which to put them.

Some of the documents accompanying the Lotteries Grant Application, 2011.
Source: G Dunwoodie.

Founders Morrie and Geraldine Dunwoodie on receiving notice of the Lotteries grant which enabled the project to go ahead, 2011.
Source: G Dunwoodie.

The building of the Archive began in February 2013 with the removal of the house on the property. Only then to be held up for six weeks by finding a Maori midden and getting a report written for Heritage NZ so we could get permission to continue. We were concerned that we would miss the good weather, and that the builders, Case Kruithof and Wayne Crook, would have to move on to other work. We tried to use local suppliers and local contractors wherever possible. Although we hadn’t thought about it, this resulted in them taking a personal interest in the job, giving us the best possible prices, giving us extra time helping with painting, and sometimes suggesting better ways of doing some things etc. Chairman Morrie Dunwoodie decided to manage the project himself – another saving. However it wasn’t without a lot of work for him. He and treasurer Gary Meek were on the phone every day, sometimes many times, in their effort to make sure there was tight control of the budget. The cladding we used only allowed for an overall tolerance of 5mm, so Morrie spent many hours measuring the building and calculating on the computer before putting in the order. Of course, he was on site where he loved to be as often as possible, including travelling daily to Auckland for six weeks for chemotherapy rather than staying up there with family – he didn’t want to miss anything. Several members of the community offered to help wherever they could, clearing the site, erecting fences, painting, planting, making things. This also helped save money.

The archive – pouring footings, 2013.
Source: G Dunwoodie.

The archive - driving the piles, 2013.
Source: G Dunwoodie.

The archive – erecting the tilt slab concrete walls, 2013.
Source: G Dunwoodie.

The archive – erecting the cladding over the black tilt slab concrete walls, 2013.
Source: G Dunwoodie.

This was such an exciting time – watching the much-dreamed-of archive become a reality. I remember Pauline Stammers driving the roller to flatten the earth at the very start. I remember going down to watch the tilt-slab wall being trucked on to the site – with fear and anticipation. The truck with its heavy load looked as if it would take out the house next door as it manoeuvred its load onto the site through a narrow opening. And I remember with gratitude the people from the community who offered help when they saw a need – Bruce McKerra who offered to help hand up the sections of the cladding so the builder didn’t have to get up and down all they time – and he stayed on to make one or two things for inside the building; Jim Maxwell and Neal Stammers who were always there when the section needed clearing or something heavy needed moving; one of the men who built the front fence coming back and helping paint it. I received photos from random people in the community who were regularly documenting the progress of the build. The Trust was able to complete the build under budget, surprising for a project this size, especially as the estimate of costs was two years old. This allowed the Trust, with on-site help from Thames Lions, to re–build a replica of the original fence of the old Carnegie Library, thereby linking the two very different buildings together. For a photograph of the original Carnegie Library and its front fence, see the article The Restoration of the Old Carnegie Library at Thames (first photo). The Trust’s one luxury has been to up-light the buildings for a few hours at night so the community can appreciate the old Carnegie Building which looks stunning.

In March 2014 the Treasury Archive was officially opened. The day started early, with a very special dawn ceremony. The archive room received a special blessing from two local kaumatua, the Rev Walter Wells and Waati Ngamene. The official part of the function was held at St James’ Church Hall. Speakers included Chairman Morrie Dunwoodie, MP Scott Simpson, and past mayor Chris Lux, with historian Dr Jock Phillips being the guest speaker, He was full of praise for what had been achieved, for the resources held by the Trust, and for The Treasury website, in particular the WWI records. He also unveiled the plaque commemorating the building of the Archive. A blog he wrote about his weekend in Thames can be read on the Te Ara website:Our Heritage is Gold. Following this, guests were invited back to The Treasury to be shown through the new addition. For several of us, the day was rather unreal. It has been so long in the planning. Now all the hard work was suddenly finished. It was time to fill this wonderful new room with an office-full of records and photographs.

The opening of the archive building by Dr Jock Phillips on 15 March 2014 while Chairman of the Trust, Morrie Dunwoodie looks on.
Source: G Dunwoodie.

An early morning blessing of the Archive by Rev. Walter Wells and Waati Ngamane 15 March 2014.
Source: G Dunwoodie.

2015 was a rewarding year celebrating the hard work of all the people involved in providing this facility. The new archive building was given a Heritage award at the NZ Institute of Architects' annual regional awards, and again in the national awards, and I was honoured to receive the QSM. I struggled with this because my husband Morrie had done as much as I had, and because so many others had spent hours getting The Treasury established. The initial idea might have been mine, but it couldn’t have happened without hours of work by other dedicated people. There were stern words from my family and one or two dear friends at The Treasury, who said I MUST accept this award on behalf of the project. It was a great experience and I DID accept it on behalf of everyone who made this project happen.

QSM Medal – Geraldine Dunwoodie accepted on behalf of all who helped with The Treasury project
Source: G Dunwoodie.

Morrie and Geraldine Dunwoodie, founders of The Treasury, at Government House, Auckland, 2015
Source: G Dunwoodie.

December 2015 also saw the publication of the Trust’s first True Tales Book. This format was first used by the Coromandel Town History Research Group as a way to fund their very comprehensive book‘In Search of the Rainbow’, the history of Coromandel. After much arm-twisting, I rather nervously formed a True Tales Committee with a representative from the different areas The Treasury covers. Historian Anne Stewart Ball offered to start the ball rolling by editing ‘True Tales of the Coromandel’s Eastern Seaboard’. This was extremely well received, and was followed by ‘True Tales of Waikino and Waitekauri’, ‘True Tales of Thames’ and ‘True Tales of The Coromandel’s Western Seaboard Thames Coast and Northern Coromandel’ which I edited. These books, all of which are for sale at our online bookshop or at The Treasury) tell true stories about the area in the title, stories which don’t make the history books or newspapers and would otherwise be lost. They also show photos that will probably never leave family ownership and otherwise wouldn’t be seen. So it has become a valuable way of recording history. The other positive spinoff is that the constant sales of these books provides a steady source of income for The Trust.

Community support to keep The Treasury functioning since we opened has been amazing. We couldn’t exist without our volunteers. I became a huge champion for the volunteers. I find it moving that so many other people see the importance of this project to the town, the region, and to future generations. They give up hours of their time. We have about 40 volunteers indexing, recording oral histories, publishing, talking to visiting groups, making displays, maintaining a busy website with an online searchable data base, digitising, cataloguing incoming records and preparing the ones which go into the archive. We have people on duty to help visitors every day we are open. What started out as simply keeping an eye on the collection is now much more complex and requires regular workshops to update and upskill people. We have a dedicated small group of people who fumigate and meticulously clean and list all the records before they are taken into the archive. This has included about five tons of old newspapers, another 100 boxes of old newspapers which had been stored elsewhere in a ceiling and were filthy, business records from A & G Price who haven’t thrown anything out since they established their foundry, Battsons Plumbers who shut shop after being here since the very early days; organisations – Jaycees, now no longer in existence; the Thames Library archive; the Thames Museum records and photos; family records; and many photos.

Moving newspapers from the Thames Library, 2015: Morrie Dunwoodie, Neil & Pauline Stammers, Jim Maxwell.
Source: G Dunwoodie.

Some of The Treasury Archiving Group at work in the new archive building, 2014. Nicole Thorburn, Judith O’Sullivan, Marise Morrison
Source: G Dunwoodie.

Getting rid of the bugs - The Archive Fumigation Room, 2016
Source: G Dunwoodie.

Some of The Treasury Indexing Group, 2016 From left: Marise Morrison (convenor), Heather Fowler, Irene MacKenzie, Beth Gordon, Jan Tercel and Janet Berney.
Source: G Dunwoodie.

Thinking of the future of The Treasury, Morrie had a rush of blood to the head, approached the owner, and arranged to buy the property. It was his intention that at the start of the following year, the Trust would work with Council to encourage them to own it. He saw this as the perfect way of ensuring the expansion of the archive when it became necessary. Architect John Sinclair thought this was a brilliant move. Morrie knew that if it was sold and the house restored, it would be years before it became available again. Sadly, after Morrie's death, there was no drive to do anything about this, and the property has since been sold. This would have been a huge disappointment to Morrie.

The success of this project has led to us mentoring other groups who are trying to do the same thing in their areas. One of these groups has made several visits, and their project is underway. One of the key things we stress is the importance of the team of people involved – getting the mix right. We were lucky enough to have people with knowledge of Council procedures, an accountant, a lawyer, a surveyor, a historian, two kaumatua, as well as genealogists who knew what was needed for family research. And we networked extensively, and asked for advice wherever we could.

This project has been an interesting journey for Morrie and me, and for our family. As my daughter remembered in a recent newspaper article:

'The idea of The Treasury was conceived around the kitchen table at our place, and every surface in our home seemed to be covered with piles of paperwork – plans, policies, and grant applications.'

Initially, I had twisted Morrie’s arm to becoming a Trustee by reminding him that I had supported his interests for many years, especially the building of the Squash Club which he led, and now it needed to be the other way round. He was a Trustee and Chairman for sixteen years, and he loved every minute of it. Although at the start, he probably wondered why there was a need for a research centre, he quickly became its most enthusiastic advocate. The project took on a life of its own, and grew to be much larger and more complex than I ever envisaged. I personally have learnt to write a business plan, make funding applications, write an expression-of-interest to lease, mastered new tricks on the computer, to write publicity articles, to speak to groups (I’m shy), to write policies – the list is never-ending. The Treasury completely took over my life.

The Treasury volunteers were a great group to work with. For the sixteen years, I was the ‘go-to’ person, it was a very happy group and, they arrived with big smiles and looking forward to getting on with their work. We made it a priority to see that they felt valued and involved – and that they had fun. In particular, the Treasury Indexing Group was a fun group. There were a couple of local ladies who had knowledge of early local people and brought out their stories when their names were raised, and a couple of hard-cases who read out funny things they were finding in the record they were indexing, causing screams of laughter. Convenor Marise always organised breakfast out at the start of the year, and a lunch after the end-of-year session. The Trust organised a Christmas function for volunteers and partners – because, after the opening of The Treasur,y those poor partners had to put up with their spouses disappearing away with great enthusiasm, and bringing home boxes of work to do, and for some, spending hours on the computer at home. At this event, various volunteers were presented with fun certificates awarding them recognition for a mistake made during the year, or something silly which had happened to them.

My enduring memories will be the satisfaction of the journey; the great friendships made and the care these friends gave me after Morrie’s death; seeing a visitor in tears after finding one small piece of information she didn’t know about; seeing a gentleman hugging a reading room volunteer on the steps of The Treasury after she had led him to find information he’d been trying to find for twenty years (and they have become great friends – he now calls her Cuddles and visits her regularly – yes Don!); the coincidences – visitors from Australia asking a volunteer for information about a family member, only to have another volunteer step out from behind the library shelves and say 'He was my grandfather too' – and these two people hadn’t known one another previously!

We knew this was an ambitious project to undertake, but it was possible! Get together a good group of people with diverse skills, aim to have very high standards for all areas of the project, start networking, keep the project in front of the public, and hold on to that dream.

Knowing all that it involved, would I do it again? I like to think so.

The Treasury's Heritage Week Activity: Trip to Punga Flat with David Wilton
Source: G Dunwoodie.

Talk, Tour, & High Tea, Central Palmerston Nth Probus, 2016.
Source: G Dunwoodie.

The Launch of True Tales of Waikino & Waitekauri, 2016. From left: Bev Stubbs, Geraldine Dunwoodie, Homer Stubbs, Morrie Dunwoodie.
Source: G Dunwoodie.

Oral History Recorders, 2014.
Back row: Graham Robinson, John Isdale, Ross Sutton, Colleen Hughes, David Wilton, Judy Vedder-Price, Geraldine Dunwoodie
Middle Row: Eileen Bain, Carol Isdale, Marilyn Dodds, Gwenyth Wright, Celia Newby Front Row: Carol Fielding, Margaret Nankivell (convenor) Ken Clover, Mary Crawford, Elizabeth McCracken.
Source: G Dunwoodie.


  1. The Restoration of the Old Carnegie Library at Thames by Anne Stewart Ball & Kae Lewis.
  2. The Treasury website: Home of The Coromandel Heritage Trust.
  3. The Treasury Journal: A place for the stories and research of Thames Coromanandel.
  4. Our Heritage is Gold, a blog by Dr Jock Phillips on the Te Ara website.
  5. Andrew Carnegie. The Carnegie Corporation of New York.
  6. Dame Mary Anne Salmond DBE FRSNZ


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