Heritage collection earns Waipu Museum a Unesco award

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Waipu Museum received its UNESCO award in Wellington, From left Dianne Macaskill, chair of Memory of the World New Zealand, Dame Fiona Kidman, Jean Tafa, Fiona Mohr, David Craig, and Ken Couper.
Waipu Museum received its UNESCO award in Wellington, From left Dianne Macaskill, chair of Memory of the World New Zealand, Dame Fiona Kidman, Jean Tafa, Fiona Mohr, David Craig, and Ken Couper.

Waipu Museum is the first outside a main centre to be inscribed on to a United Nations cultural register.

The museum has earned the prestigious award for its collection of heritage documents that tells the story of the Waipu Scottish migration in the 1800s.

The Waipu Scottish Migration Collection has been inscribed on to the Unesco Memory of the World New Zealand documentary heritage register.

Unesco recognition draws attention to the significance of our documentary heritage and the institutions that care for it. The museum is the first institution in a small town out of the main centres to gain the recognition.

Waipu Museum manager Fiona Mohr said the museum was excited to receive the honour.

"The collection documents a significant international migration from Scotland to Nova Scotia via South Africa to Australia and New Zealand reflecting the spread of the British Empire in the 1800s.

The Waipu Scottish migration, led by the Rev Norman MacLeod, was influenced by political and economic events in Scotland between the 18th and 19th centuries," she said.

"The cultural decimation of Scotland from the Battle of Culloden, followed by the Industrial Revolution, when textiles was the dominant industry, influenced landlords to vacate their land of crofters (Scottish Clearances) in favour of sheep grazing. These influences and that of the desire for ownership of land and prosperity caused a global diaspora of Scots. Waipu's story is unique in New Zealand, in that it was for over 70 years a singular community of more than 1000 Gaelic speaking Scots, cohorts of Rev MacLeod."

The collection comprises 1350 photos (more than 200 portrait photos of original settlers), 11 diaries, 211 personal correspondence letters, 113 official correspondence, 76 printed documents with handwritten inscriptions, three cadastral maps, two maps, 13 inscribed books, 16 shipping records, 3248 genealogy lists and 14 drawings.

Mohr, Ken Couper, chairman of Waipu Centennial Trust Board; David Craig the museum's patron and Jean Tafa attended the awards function in Wellington.
The presentation of their certificate was by Dame Fiona Kidman whose novel The Book of Secrets was based on the migration.

Dame Fiona congratulated the museum for its achievement. She went to Waipu in the 1950s as a young girl about to start high school. She recalled the House of Memories (now Waipu Museum) that housed the photographs and documents relating to the great Nova Scotia migration to New Zealand in the 1850s, a repository of family histories and treasures.

- Northern Advocate

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