A unique and valuable regional collection of more than 5000 audio and video items will be preserved in a collaboration between an iwi radio station and the national audio-visual archive.
The legacy collection has been built up over decades by Whanganui iwi radio station Awa FM. The collection has never been catalogued but Awa FM says it contains irreplaceable audio and video recordings, including interviews and historical kōrero that will be treasured by iwi and hapū of the Whanganui River and Rātana Pā.
Station manager Whetu Fala invited Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision to inspect the collection to assess its condition and provide expert advice on how best to care for it in the future.
"We needed to intersect with experts in the care of the audio taonga that we have and also experts in the care of moving image," Fala said.
"We also have quite a range of VHS collected over the years and we'd like to see these cared for in a way that ensures that future generations, and I'm talking about in 50 years' time, still can enjoy these stories."
Fala, who is also a board member of Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision, says the first stage of the project is to find out exactly what the collection contains.
"We don't quite know. Iwi radio is the largest collector of te reo Māori in the world and has been diligently and routinely archiving material for the three decades since the network was established, but the Awa FM collection goes back further than 30 years.
"We've got over 5000 items. None of them have been catalogued so the first stage is to find out what's inside the archive. We're not sure how far the collection dates back but we know there are some very precious items from the 60s and 70s right through to now that will be of great value to our hapū and iwi."
An example was an album recorded by Ngā Paerangi at Kaiwhaiki Marae.
Fala said the collection includes cart reels, cassette tapes and decks, reel-to-reel magnetic tapes, video, dat-tape, vinyl records, CDs and floppy discs, as well as a pristine reel-to-reel player and cart machines all in good working order.
"It's actually quite exciting. I suspect that our sister radio stations will probably have the same sort of collections. I just think we're lucky that by good fortune the station has managed to hold the collection together."
Awa FM, which marks its 30th anniversary next week, will begin the massive task of digitising the collection with one of five digital archiving kits being made available to iwi Māori by Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision.
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision poutaki taonga Māori, Gareth Seymour, says the collection being safeguarded by Awa FM is a "really valuable" record of historical kōrero, much of it from kaumātua, which was captured at the time of historic events.
"We congratulate Awa FM for all the work that they've done over the 30 years. We really emphasise the value of the taonga that they hold and we'd really like to work with them to do what we can to save those collections.
"It's important to preserve and digitise the collections now because the analogue carriers of those recordings aren't going to be around forever."
Seymour said the digitisation project has been enabled by Covid-19 recovery funding and four further field digitisation kits would be distributed around the country.
"Iwi radio has been at the forefront of broadcasting to our people for more than 30 years now, bringing the reo into our homes through our radio. We are aware of the taonga that they hold. The important thing is that they exist, that the work of previous generations of radio station workers means we have these collections. Now it is time to digitise.
"We're really keen to work with Māori communities including iwi radio stations to see how we can place those field digitisation kits in the communities and get the most out of them to preserve the taonga that are out there in the rohe."
Seymour says the team's initial inspection indicates the collection is in good condition but digitisation needs to be done as soon as possible.
"We could lose the recordings through deterioration. That would be a great loss. The opportunity sits with us now to create digital copies that can be accessible in the long-term."
Awa FM says it will continue to take care of the taonga but decisions about ongoing kaitiakitanga of the archive would lie with the hapū and iwi concerned.