22,000 rolls of film could reveal social history of Hawke's Bay Māori

By Aroha Treacher
  • North Island: East Coast

Some 20,000 rolls of film taken by the late photographer Russell Spiller could provide valuable insight into how Māori socialised in Hawkes Bay.

An estimated one million images are set to enter the digital age after the rolls of film were given to the Hawke's Bay Knowledge Bank to be digitise by the family, images that will show 70 years of Hawke's Bay history.

"They're mainly the social events that made up Hawke's Bay's social life from the 40s and 50s right through until everybody had a digital camera," says his son Perry Spiller.

The photos were taken at events from Wairoa right through to Central Hawke's Bay.

"I think he'd be very pleased that people can access them and look at them, rather than just sitting in a corner gathering dust, that would be a sin," says his daughter Sharreese Spiller.

Chairman of the knowledge bank Peter Dunkerley says, Māori history would absolutely be captured on the rolls of film due to the rich history Māori have in Hawke's Bay.

The meticulous photo index books kept by Spiller, reveal Māori names that are linked to portrait photos, he also covered years of ANZAC Day events that reached as far as Mahia.

Now the big job ahead is to match each image with a name, something that the Bank will need the public's help with.

"We'll need the people to connect to the information in the pictures. So once we get it there, you've got wonderful people in Māoridom that I know of,that know the history of this area and know the relationships and know the people. So it will be a matter of putting the pictures to the people," says Dunkerley.

All the information once complete will be available free to the public to access on their website.

However with only one scanner available it could take up to 18 years to complete, but they hope to get more resources to speed up the process.