The story of a Journal, and a Society
(Article first published in the Avondale Historical Journal, Vol 1, Issue 5, May-June 2002)
I have been asked to put together a brief background story as to how the Historical Society came about.
Around 1989, I started to collect information and ephemera on Avondaleís history, spending spare time going to the Auckland Central Library and raking through old Western Leaders, as well as viewing old maps and photos. I have had the kind permission of several library staff at Avondale Community Library over the years, photocopying from their own local history archive.
After the publication of Challenge of the Whau (1994) I continued to gather what I now term "Avondaliana"; Avondale collectibles, information, photos, news clippings. My personal archive outgrew my initial simple filing system, and now one area of interest overflows the others as it will. I believed, and still fervently believe, that Avondale should have a history, a heritage, for if not, when those of us who have lived these Avondale lives of ours are gone Ė only fragments will remain, whether of memory or of paper.
In late February 2001, I was approached by Duncan Macdonald, chairman of the Avondale Business Association, to write a timeline history of the Association. Of course the story of the association is strongly linked to and part of the story of Avondale Central itself, and so started Heart of the Whau. The Avondale Business Association approved a research grant to cover expenses such as transport, photocopying, stationery etc, and the hunt for information began.
From March 1 2001 I began compiling information for Heart of the Whau. I quickly discovered that I am not the only local history buff out there, and have had the appreciated help of dozens of people, businesses, and institutions. To my delight, many of the "identities" of Avondale past and present have become good friends of mine, and keen supporters of the concept that we need one legal entity, a Society, to represent the issues of heritage preservation and appreciation in our community.
In May-June 2001, with the second draft of Heart of the Whau presented to the Avondale Business Associationís Committee, I asked if the ABA would act as an "umbrella group" for funding applications to ensure the printing of the book. Instead, the Committee suggested that a historical society be set up. I arranged for a meeting to take place in July, but illness forced a cancellation.
On August 10 2001, as I felt that there was so much new information coming to light on the history of Avondale that I didnít want to wait for book publication entirely, I started the "Rimtark" website for Avondale History, followed soon after by the "Archive Room" for general Auckland history and another sister site, "Earth Settler". These websites complement the existing History section on the Avondale Business Association site, still the home of the original timeline, but also have their own Down Memory Lane section, specialist articles on Avondale churches and personalties, and photos.
In September 2001, inspired by the Avondale History Groupís Newsletters of 1992-1993, I wrote and published the first Avondale Historical Journal under the "Heart of the Whau Project" name. One of the Journalís main purposes was to maintain the interest in a historical society until I could organise another meeting date.
The Journal was originally mailed or given directly to people on a mailing list of around 50 names. This list grew extremely fast, and by the publication of Issue 4 in late February 2002, the mailing list was at around 90 and rising Ė an extremely popular publication with the public. Each issue was sponsored to cover cost of photocopying, postage etc. by either local businesses or members of the public. In early March 2002, the Avondale Business Association agreed to cover future costs of photocopying to the mailing list in return for the right to reproduce the Journal in each issue of Avondaleís Spiderís Web local paper, as an insertion. This meant the distribution of the Journal now stands at over 1000 copies for the first four issues.
On Saturday, March 30, 2002, the Historical Society was born, and the Journal became its official publication.
Update (as at November 2003)
The Society was incorporated on 5 June 2003, and now has over 95 paid members. While the Journal is no longer included in the Spider's Web, it has a distribution of 180, and is now lodged with the National Library in Wellington.
Heart of the Whau was published in late July 2003, with a print run of 300 copies. 5/6 of that number have now been sold.
The first president was Bruce Spencer. I am the second President of the Society, and its Historical Research Officer. On behalf of the Society, I continue to edit and distribute the Historical Journal, and write articles for the Spider's Web. The Avondale Business Association still supports our fledgling Society, with our gratitude, through their Mainstreet Programme.
We're still here. And Avondale's history is still being written, with the help of many, many wonderful people.
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