The stories behind some of Cambridge’s historic buildings and the characters who have occupied them are central to a new Cambridge Museum series starting in next week’s Cambridge News.
‘Backchat’ will feature curtain-twitcher tales linked to the town’s older buildings. The concept is the brainchild of Fauve artist and long-time Cambridge resident Carole Hughes, while the information will come to readers via the three women who make the Cambridge Museum the little gem it is – Kathryn Parsons, Karen Payne and Elizabeth Harvey. All three are skilled researchers and archivists, knowing exactly from where to extract the most interesting, and often quite entertaining, information intended to pique public interest.
Carole’s idea was to bring the buildings to life with stories of their past. The museum team jumped on board, recognising Carole’s value as a repository of information related to the town’s people and places. “We are delighted Carole brought this to us,” said museum manager Kathryn.
Each month, ‘Backchat’ will run a couple of stories relating to buildings of interest, she added. Things are in place for the first few months, and the team is happy to take whatever momentum it gathers into a longer timeframe.
The Cambridge Historical Society owns the collections and operates the Cambridge Museum with support from the community and the Waipā District Council (WDC). It was in mid-2016 when the responsibility for operating the museum shifted from the WDC to the Cambridge Historical Society that positions were advertised and quickly filled by Kathryn Parsons and Karen Payne.
“We started within weeks of each other in August 2016,” said Kathryn. She had previously spent 27 years as librarian at the University of Waikato and was excited at the prospect of working in a museum.
“One of the drawcards for me was that I knew how strong the documentary heritage was in Cambridge. It is very comprehensive, thanks largely to people like Eris Parker. We are busy with an ongoing project to investigate, assess and collate the artefacts, photographs and documents stored here.”
Museum administrator Karen Payne, who once harboured thoughts of becoming a journalist, has satisfied her sleuthing urges by becoming a master researcher, adept at teasing out the stories that add life to the collection. “I came in with a strong administration background, working mostly in local and central government. That knowledge has helped in my research … I also enjoy the creative aspect of the job.”
Elizabeth Harvey is the newest addition to the team. She arrived in Cambridge in 2014 and has been employed as museum assistant since January last year. Born in England, and educated there and in Scotland, she holds an undergraduate degree in history and a masters in museum studies. Her focus on heritage and digital media led her to working in an Edinburgh-based national museum for six years.
The trio is combining to better engage with the public through outreach activities. ‘Backchat’, they believe, will fit that brief perfectly.
The first in the series will run next week, June 10.