Digital stories bring history to life

Marketing expert Hana Mori-Robertson records project leader, Claire McDonald.

An app with audio recordings of untold local stories has gone live this week, thanks to a group of dedicated residents.

Warkworth Stories is a ‘digital storytelling trail’ which will allow people to walk through Warkworth and hear anecdotal stories from historical figures about the space they are in.

The concept is similar to audio guides used by museums throughout the world, but this will be a history of the town as told by its people, project leader Claire McDonald says.

The intention is to place a series of wooden posts throughout Warkworth with informational signs, which include QR codes, she says.

These codes can be scanned by any smartphone and will automatically bring up the audio story related to that location.

The first three stories to be released will be on Lucy Moore Park and Lucy herself, swimming sport events formerly held under the Elizabeth Street bridge, and a history of the Jane Gifford.

“The idea came to me because, like many others, I listen to a lot of podcasts during the day, and after 20 years of living in Warkworth, I have heard a lot of interesting stories worth recording,” Claire says.

The Warkworth Stories team will present to the Rodney Local Board soon to get permission to install the sign poles in key locations.

Each sign costs $400 to $800 and, so far, five community groups including Rotary and Lions have agreed to sponsor one.

The locations have been chosen after consultation with community groups including the Warkworth Library, Warkworth Museum, Ngati Manuhiri and the Jane Gifford Society.

Claire says that in future, they will also be looking for story ideas from residents.

“Personal anecdotes enrich the telling of the history, and this information is not something you can just Google – it comes from sources such as a person’s diary.

“It makes the history feel more real to hear it from a person while you are in the physical space and I think the technology draws people in, in a way that an ordinary sign might not.”

For example, one of the stories features a first-hand account of a student travelling to school on the Mahurangi River in 1920, as well as a recording of Ngati Manuhiri’s Ringi Brown talking about pre-colonial use of the river.

Work on the project has been voluntary and has involved seven local experts including an audio engineer, two historians and a signage panel designer.

The recordings have been done in a homemade recording studio in a Snells Beach garage.

Warkworth Stories is hosted on the My Tours app, a platform developed by an Aucklander and used by Walk Auckland, the Auckland Museum, and many walking trails in major cities throughout the world.

Each story is about four minutes long and features two to three voices.

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