In August of 1964, shortly after my 13th birthday, in my last year at Whitehall School and before 1965’s big move to Cambridge High School, Mr Sutcliffe, our headmaster bought us older kids into town, during school time, to see the unveiling of the Fort Street plaque in that special week leading up to the Cambridge Centennial celebrations. Despite the rain and the briefness of the ceremony it is an experience I recall with absolute clarity. An historic event commemorating an historic Cambridge time and place; it enveloped me personally – vividly – in our history.
In recent days, in June of 2010, I became aware of the work to be carried out in the area we shall call the senior citizen’s hall car park – a not insignificant portion of the ‘historic precinct’ bounded by Victoria and Fort Streets and Milicich Place; the area referred to on the Fort Street plaque.
I took little notice until Wednesday (23/6/2010) when I, at last, walked over to have a look – discovering with more than just a little surprise an archaeological ‘dig’ in progress. I spoke briefly with the site manager and took this photograph of her. The significance of this began to dawn on me in the rather haphazard way that things do when you find yourself out of the loop.
12:19PM Wednesday, 23/June/2010
I walked away somewhat confused and with the promise to return with the means to photograph the site from on high – something it was suggested – was not in the budget. On Wednesday evening I arranged with real estate photographer Jason Tregurtha to use his high tech elevated photography rig to record the site. Unfortunately this was not to be. I have been kicking myself for the past two days for not having had the presence of mind to ask how much longer the dig would be in progress. Returning to the site 24 hours after my first visit I found the dig all but covered over.
12:22PM Thursday, 24/June/2010
So, who could have exercised the foresight, the leadership, the imagination, indeed, who if anyone, has the responsibility or the authority to have grabbed the opportunity to share this with the rest of us? Not in the future, not as a report, but as it was happening. Who has the responsibility for advocating our cultural and historical heritage? In the week we were being encouraged to celebrate voluntarism who missed the opportunity to seek docents or interpreters – even security – from our community for this project?
Here is a list of the statutory, community, ad hoc and informal offices(ers) who may or may not have had a say in this – indeed who may have been consulted (or not) – in no particular order: Waipa District Council staff, our elected Waipa representatives, the Cambridge Historical Society Inc. (of which I am a member), the curator of Cambridge Museum, the Waipa District iwi liaison officer, the Waipa Heritage Council (an informal committee of Waipa District Council), the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, the New Zealand Archaeological Association.
I feel let down by those responsible for the care and stewardship of our heritage. What a lost opportunity. Lost a teaching moment – an investment in our future. Lost a time to savour and share – the opportunity for contemplation and reflection on our heritage. With leadership, effective communications and planning the management of this project in terms of cost, time frame and security could / should have factored community enthusiasm, knowledge and expertise into the dig for the benefit of us all.
We did the elevated shot anyway – for the record – thanks Jason.
1:38PM Saturday, 25/June/2010 Photo credit: Jason Tregurtha open2view.com
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