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Nelson Historical Society Journal, Volume 2, Issue 4, May 1970

What is The Nelson Historical Society (Inc.)?

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What is The Nelson Historical Society (Inc.)?

Presumably it is a society for those interested in past events of Nelson Province, and in recording them.

It has been suggested that the Society extend its interests to include past and current events, even world-wide affairs impinging on New Zealand's welfare. Members interested could apply to form a section of the Society, as the archaeologists have done already. This could have value in setting Nelson into the frame of N.Z. history.

The opinion of our working members is strongly that local history is the main interest of the Society—that it should encourage and indeed increase its efforts in collecting, evaluating and recording details and sidelines of the history of this unique Province and its early settlements before such information becomes dubious and even lost. The sooner working space and access to records can be available at Isel, the better.

In his interesting and entertaining autobiography "Reluctant Editor" (Reed 1969) M. H. Holcroft, Editor of "The New Zealand Listener" from 1949–67, makes an authoritative and pertinent observation:

"I also spent much time in libraries; and I think I now realised, more fully than before, the scope of a librarian's work, and especially its creative function at the roots of literature. But I found also that the best librarian could not produce what writers had failed to supply. Again and again I was held up by gaps in information, discrepancies in dates, confusions and contradictions. I was not writing a work of scholarship, and I had to meet a deadline, so that for the most part I had to depend on secondary sources. These were often newspaper reports; and I found repeatedly that they contained long passages from earlier reports on the same subjects, an economical use of time and material which must be expected when reporters consult the files of ten, twenty and fifty years ago. But it must be easy, in these circumstances, for errors of fact to be transmitted to a believing posterity.

"I had supposed, from my own reading, that New Zealand was well served by historians. And in a broad sense, if the view is taken that history is mainly politics, it probably is. My own view, however, is that history is much more than parliaments and wars. And if we descend, as I did, from the national to the local scene, we find large areas of experience untapped and unrecorded. There are city and small town antiquaries, but not many; and Wellington, the capital city, has of all places been most neglected. We are meeting gaps in our knowledge at a time when interest in the past is becoming page 4stronger. Some of these gaps can never be closed: we are suffering, not only from a shortage of writers, and especially of local historians, but also from the vast stupidity which has allowed the destruction of irreplaceable records. And so we find areas of history, which means areas of national consciousness, in which we shall be forever groping."

The Sociey must surely encourage "small town antiquaries" and "local historians"—our major interests should avowedly be parochial.

C. R. Barnicoat,