14 Feb 2019

The Prow is 10 years old!

More than 658,000 people have visited the top of the South history website 'The Prow' (www.theprow.org.nz) since it was launched ten years ago in February 2009.  The initiative was the brainchild of a group of librarians from the Nelson Public, Tasman and Marlborough District Libraries in response to frequent requests they received from library users asking for references and resources on local history.

Prow Logo FINAL PDF 2008

“We envisaged a website which preserves and makes accessible the unique history and culture of our regions with fact-filled stories, memories and photographs. The Prow offers local history stories for people to enjoy and dip into, followed by detailed references and extensive resource lists if they want to dig further. We launched the project with 50 stories from Nelson, Tasman and Marlborough and currently have 565 stories, with 176 stories contributed by members of the public,” says Prow project manager, Nicola Harwood.

“Over the ten years, we have commissioned and sought local stories and kept the website up to date as digital technology develops. In 2015 we added responsive web design for tablets and for mobile phones in 2017.  This saw a change to 55% of Prow users accessing the website on desktops, 33% on mobile and 11% on tablets.  Audio walks have been added over the years with one on Melrose House and Garden accessed 226 times and a Nelson Literary Ramble used 157 times.,” she says.

The Prow’s content includes pre-European Maori history, early European settlement, the development of infrastructure, industry and business and features stories about society, people and events in the top of the South Island.

Highlights of The Prow’s first ten years

  • A 2015 Nelson Youth Council photo competition which invited photo submissions inspired by Prow stories. Photos were displayed in an exhibition at Nelson’s Refinery Artspace. A booklet was made and copies can be seen at the Nelson Public Library or here.  (http://bit.ly/2GwlL7I)
  • Members of the public, including local high school students, have contributed 176 stories which are often connected to their family history, or a childhood memory focussing on a place or an event. For example theprow.org.nz/yourstory/samuels-pie-cart
  • Community projects such as a collaboration with the Havelock Museum Society in 2015,  which resulted in a series of historical stories, (theprow.org.nz/places/havelock)  including the development of the mussel industry, Havelock’s historic general store and life in Canvastown and the Wakamarina.
  • Presentations to the National Digital Forum (NDF) in 2009 and 2015.
    • Second place in 2009 in the 3M Award for Innovation in Libraries – an award to promote excellence and innovation in library and information services.
    • Prow stories are located on the recreational layer of Top of the South maps, (topofthesouthmaps.co.nz/app/) with a link to relevant stories.
    • The partnership with Digital NZ means Prow stories can be found on Digital New Zealand - which is a portal to digitised New Zealand content.
    • Prow stories are referenced on Te Ara, the Encyclopedia of New Zealand.

“It is very satisfying to see how well used the Prow is by all kinds of people from students and local historians to local media and genealogists researching from overseas. The comments section is fairly active with people seeking information about relatives from the past, adding new information, suggesting amendments or simply saying they are enjoying the site. And we are still getting people adding their own stories, alongside the ones commissioned by the Nelson and Marlborough Libraries,” Ms Harwood says.

The Prow website was established with a grant from the Government’s Digital Strategy Community Partnership Fund and is a collaborative venture between the Nelson, Tasman and Marlborough Libraries, the Nelson Provincial Museum and the Marlborough Museum.  

The website is named after the te reo Māori name for the top of the South Island: Te Tau Ihu o Te Waka a Maui. Te tau ihu was the prow of Maui's waka, or canoe, from which he fished up the North Island.

A selection of Prow comments

  • Thank you very much for this! Rev TD Nicholson is my great great grandfather on my mom’s side of the family. I am researching our ancestors and was delighted to find this article.
  • I am the great grandson of Appo  (Hocton) and amazed at his strength and tenacity.  He achieved much and had a very interesting life. Appo's son, Louis William Hocton was my grandfather.  He had two daughters, Leila Marjory Cook and Elva Gwendoline Barker.  They were the only two Hocton named people and since both have died, the Hocton name is but a memory.
  • Kia ora  - I am a descendant down Tiaki’s line. How do me & my cousins get a copy of Kate’s publication? I really enjoyed reading this article. Nga mihi

Some analytics

  • Total users from Feb 1 2009 – 31 Jan 2019 – 658,773
  • In 2018, 77% of visitors were from New Zealand.  Other Prow users came from Australia, U.S., U.K., Canada, France and Germany.
  • 46% female, 54% male visitors
  • 60% of Prow users are aged between 18 and 34

Comparison between Feb 1 2009-31 Jan 2010 and Feb 1 2018-31 Jan 2019

  • Users have increased 239% to 85, 642 (in 2018/19)
  • Sessions have increased 228% to 112,282 (in 2018/19)
  • Page views have increased 80.6% to 187,198 (in 2018/19)

For more information contact

  • Nicola Harwood, Nelson Public Libraries, phone 03 546 0406, nicola.harwood@ncc.govt.nz
  • Or Joy Stephens, WordPower Communications, phone 027 295 6555, joy@wordpower.co.nz