DO YOU have, or want, a piece of Horsham's history? If so, Karen Hickman is someone you need to see.
The 72-year-old has been editing the Lost Horsham Facebook page for the past four years.
The page collects and publishes digitised versions of photos of the Horsham area and its residents. Residents submit photographs, which date back decades.
Mrs Hickman became the editor of Lost Horsham after first being a contributor.
"My dad Les Wright was a butcher on Firebrace Street at Wright and Rileys, before it turned into Freijah Menswear," she said.
"I was in Freijah's one day and the owner said, 'I've got some good old photos, would you like them?'
"So he gave them to me and I put them on Lost Horsham - I had nothing to do with it at that stage - and the administrator Geoff Allemand got in touch with me and asked if I'd be interested in being the editor."
Mrs Hickman said she taught herself computer skills after her son James gave her the one she uses now.
"He thought I wouldn't be able to cope with it, so I was more determined than ever to learn after that," she said.
"I try to post pretty often because it keeps people interested. People who send me photos via messenger are often asking for information about things such as their relatives, so unless the photo is really interesting sometimes I'll just respond to them without posting. I get a lot of responses to old firefighting pictures or other ones where we need names for people."
Mrs Hickman said she passed all the photos on to the Horsham Historical Society.
She had form in connecting Wimmera residents with their past before Lost Horsham, having been a member of the Wimmera Association for Genealogy since 2000. In this role, she helps people piece together their family trees.
"We had a woman come in recently and she was adopted, but she didn't know this until her adoptive parents died - so we were able to find all her natural family for her," she said.
"Her biological parents came from Nhill, so she's found that all out and now has a sense of her history."
Mrs Hickman said the association's role had become more important in an age where websites such as ancestry.com offered DNA tests to help people learn who they could be related to.
Mrs Hickman has shared hundreds of photos since becoming Lost Horsham's editor, and said she hoped the page became a community resource into the future. She said there was a unique sense of excitement that came from filling historical gaps in the community.
"There's an old house just on the corner near where I live on Urquhart Street," she said.
"It was Sawyer's house, and I have a photo showing behind there where Dixon's house is being built. People who know Horsham would have known the Dixons because they had a newsagency in the city, and when I put that on Facebook, a relative, Susan Dixon, commented because she had never seen it.
"Sawyers was the first brick works in Horsham, and their bricks built the Exchange Hotel and the RSL, so it's all history and people are interested in it. I am, because I was born here."
Geoff Allemand, who founded the Lost Horsham page, lives in Shepparton. He has started "Lost" Facebook pages for 20 areas in Victoria including Kyabram, Echuca and Maryborough.
He said he had always planned to pass on management of the Horsham page to a Horsham resident.
"It started when I was a schoolteacher living in Shepparton and I had to do some work for a primary school whose students were video interviewing their grandparents," he said.
"I was asked to put together a DVD for the school to offer to parents, and in putting it together I needed to find some historical photos to go with the grandparents talking about growing up.
"When looking online I found the page "Lost Perth" which has 25,000 followers. I thought I'd start a "Lost Shepparton" Facebook page because I started to see how popular it was for people to respond to historic photos and share their own."
Mr Allemand said it was important digital copies were made of historical photos.
"We're losing so much history to people throwing out old slides and film, so these pages get them to think twice about doing that, and they're a good tool for historical societies as well," he said.
Why preserving the past will matter in the future
Horsham Historical Society president Lindsay Smith is well aware of the need for history to be accessible in an area such as the Wimmera.
Mr Smith, whose ancestors moved from the United Kingdom to Dimboola in 1874, has been in the role for two months. He previously served in 2012.
He said the society made money by selling photographs to people researching their family history.
"We're probably halfway through scanning all the images we have," he said. "There are still another 40,000 ready to be written up and put in the system.
"We're putting the region's social history together for 100 years from now when there are fewer towns between here and Swan Hill. The farms are getting bigger, the population is disappearing. In the 1870s, you only selected 340 acres to settle on here, and the average family was up to seven children - so that's why towns developed.
"The other thing is all the towns in the Wimmera are horse distances apart - 20-odd kilometres is a day in a wagon. Now we have cars, all those little towns are disappearing."
Mr Smith said the society had 80 members, including six life members, and 15 volunteers creating records of Horsham's history every Tuesday and Wednesday.
He said the historical society also housed a library, historical items, family histories, manuscripts and newspaper archives.
"There is a lot of information on history out there these days, but not the kind that we possess," he said.
"For example we have minutes from Horsham Hospital from 1872 up to 1995, which have a lot of information like people's names, where they lived and what they did.
"As you get older, you'll ask questions. It takes a while, but don't leave it too long to ask what Grandpa did."
While you're with us, you can now receive updates straight to your inbox twice weekly from the Wimmera Mail-Times. To make sure you're up-to-date with all the news from across the Wimmera, sign up below.