Otago Daily Times , 30 June 2021

For Clutha’s new community heritage co-ordinator, the role is something of a trip down memory lane.

Former Catlins resident Tiffany Jenks took on the position for Clutha District Libraries in April, and described it on Monday as “a dream role”.

The former Toitu asset registrar spent much of her childhood at Maclennan in the eastern Catlins, where her family has farmed since the 1940s.

She said it was the history of the small, former railway and logging township that had given her a passion for New Zealand heritage, leading her to work in museums and archiving.

Ms Jenks said she had never imagined it would bring her back to home turf so soon, however.

“Lots of people round the world still connect with the Clutha District, including myself.

“My job here is really to help local people tell their own stories through digitisation of records, objects and oral history. Given part of my own story overlaps with the Catlins here in Clutha, I’m very excited to be able to work to allow all those stories to be heard by a wider global audience, and to promote the heritage of the district.”

Ms Jenks said she would be travelling the district during the next year to gather people’s stories, photograph and catalogue documents and objects, and help communities do the same for themselves, to allow the project to continue into the future.

Those digital archives would be uploaded to a new website, enabling anybody to access them in perpetuity, she said.

“Clutha’s history is so interesting, because it plays so strongly into some of our key national heritage themes.

“You’ve got the gold rush, sawmilling, the railways and agriculture, all of which are important to the history of New Zealand itself.”

She said both she and the initiative had been eagerly welcomed thus far.

“People I’ve met so far seem very interested and excited to be getting a local resource where their stories can be recorded for posterity.

“I get a lot of, ‘Oh yeah … I’d be keen …”’

People’s faces “lit up” when they drew connections between vintage objects, people and their stories, she said.

“Often these are objects that can only be handled in a restricted fashion. This allows everyone access in a simple, lasting way.”

Ms Jenks invited community groups, families and individuals with stories to share to contact her by email at [email protected].