When Jannyse Williams joined Woodend’s heritage society 20 years ago, searching for information in old newspapers meant using a microfilm reader.
It was painstaking work. To find a relevant article, researchers often had to wind through months of editions. Pages whizzed past on the screen. Then, when the correct day had been found, they had to scour headlines to pick out what they wanted.
“It would give you a migraine very quickly,” Jannyse said. “You had to read every line.”
The society had some computers. But they were so old they didn’t have Microsoft Windows. In those days, data was stored on 3.5in disks, not USB sticks and portable drives. And the internet was in its infancy: access, if you had it, was via a dial-up connection. No broadband, no Wi-Fi.
Nowadays, those computers and microfilm readers would themselves be heritage items.
As a voluntary organisation, Woodend & District Heritage Society doesn’t update its equipment often. It has to make do, and be on the look-out for second-hand deals. “New” computers – when they do arrive – are already several years old.
So the committee leapt at the chance to obtain six computers from Mortgage Choice.
The machines came from a call centre but they were not old.
Importantly, they were much faster than the society’s existing computers – some of which had been around since the mid-1990s. And their larger 19in screens were much kinder to the eyes.
The opportunity arose because Peter Machell, owner of Mortgage Choice Bendigo, knew of the heritage society’s valuable work and spotted a chance to help.
“Our region has a rich history, and the Woodend and District Heritage Society’s dedication to compiling and protecting it is amazing,” Peter said.
“Whether I read an article, see an old photo or just listen to a local talking of days gone by, I’m fascinated with our past and how it has built the wonderful culture we have in Woodend.”
Jannyse, now the society’s President, said the society was able to buy the computers, and 12 screens, for a far better price than it could have obtained them for elsewhere.
Members find it easier to log photographs, rate books, school and church records, club minute books, and births, deaths and marriages.
Local newspapers from the earliest days can now be viewed on a computer rather than a film reader. Searching for articles is no longer the time-consuming task it once was.
Tony Stidwell, who manages the collection of photos, said: “The extra screens are much bigger and clearer so we are able to replace the smaller screens that some of our volunteers had problems with.”
The additional computers mean volunteers no longer face arriving to find every computer already in use.
“It’s just made life a lot easier for everyone,” Jannyse said. “We are very grateful.”
Woodend & District Heritage Society meets on Wednesdays at the old court house in Forest Street, Woodend.