MEDIA RELEASE: Recording and telling local heritage stories in Wairarapa

17 June 2021

Oral history and storytelling are getting a kick-start in Wairarapa with several new initiatives from the Wairarapa Library Service.

A group of 11, with links to organisations including Martinborough Museum, Wairarapa Archive and Pāpāwai Marae, attended two days of oral history training in Martinborough in May and June. Lynette Shum, Oral History Adviser at the National Library of New Zealand, led the workshop along with broadcaster and oral historian Hugo Manson, who lives in Wairarapa.

In the early 1980s, Hugo Manson and Judith Fyfe established the New Zealand Oral History Archive, with their oral history project interviewing Martinborough residents.

‘It’s exciting to be offering training for new oral historians who’ll be able to document and tell Wairarapa stories,’ says Annette Beattie, Library Service Manager for South Wairarapa and Carterton District Councils. ‘There are some great stories to be told – and it’s a really nice synergy having Hugo here co-leading the workshop.’

Potential projects that may come out of the workshop include interviews with women winemakers in Martinborough, new immigrants, and long-time members of the Māori Women’s Welfare League, as well as interviews to enrich exhibitions at Cobblestones Museum.

The initial training is being followed up with a day-long workshop on audio storytelling in Greytown on Saturday 24 July. Then on Thursday 19 August Wellington oral historians, Dr Emma-Jean Kelly and Pip Oldham, will be speaking in Greytown about their experiences creating podcasts from oral histories.

‘We’re encouraging people to record oral histories, and then to produce podcasts or other forms of audio stories from them. We’re keen to get our local heritage stories out there,’ says Annette.

It’s part of a wider initiative by the library service to actively facilitate and support making local heritage more accessible and grow connections among local heritage organisations in Wairarapa. The New Zealand Libraries Partnership Programme has funded a fixed-term position specifically dedicated to content creation in local heritage.

For more information, or to register for the audio storytelling workshop, email Caren Wilton, Libraries’ Content Coordinator Local Heritage, at the South Wairarapa District Council on

Media contact: Sheil Priest, Communications & Engagement Manager, South Wairarapa District Council, 027 252 2863. Email:

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