Tuesday 28 February 2012

Major WW1 digitisation events in Preston and Dublin

The following press release comes from Europeana (www.europeana.com), and concerns a major First World War pan-European digitisation project requiring your help:

World War One 1914 -1918 Digitising pictures, letters and memories for the 100th anniversary 

Do you have a box hidden deep in the attic or under the bed that holds your great grandfather’s diaries? Maybe a letter from the front line? Or a photo taken at the time? Is there a special story behind it? If so, we want to see it.

We are building the first ever online European archive of private memorabilia from WW1 in time for the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of war – and we need your help to do this.

Today we are urging people to root out memorabilia from 1914-1918 to bring along to the Museum of Lancashire in Preston, on Saturday March 10 – one of the first in a series of WW1 Family History Roadshows that will be visiting Luxembourg, Ireland, Slovenia, Denmark and Belgium during 2012.

We anticipate that it will be the first time many of these items have ever been seen outside the family – creating a new and exciting source of material for historians, schools, genealogists and cultural organisations in their interpretation of how the war affected the lives or ordinary people.

We want families to tell us about their keepsakes, who they belonged to and why they are so important to them - and we will save those memories in our archive (see www.europeana1914-1918.eu/en).

Europeana 1914-1918 brings together a partnership of libraries, museums, academic and cultural institutions, which in the UK includes the British Library, Oxford University, JISC, and Lancashire County Council.

On roadshow days, historians and experts will be available to talk about the significance of the finds - while our staff will professionally digitise and upload them to the website.

And if you are unable to attend the event, you can scan or digitally photograph your own material and upload it on the website (www.europeana1914-1918.eu/en).

As the centenary approaches, it is vital we preserve these precious documents for future generations. Digitisation saves them from being lost or thrown away – and it allows the information to be incorporated into apps for smartphones and tablets that will bring history alive for people in contemporary ways.

In 2011, more than 25,000 digital images were recorded from nine family history roadshows held in major cities across Germany. These included: unpublished diaries, hand-drawn maps, portraits, sketches and photographs recording life under fire and on the home front.

Stephen Bull, curator of military history and archaeology at the Museum of Lancashire, said: “As the centenary of 1914 and WW1 approaches, it is more important than ever that we save these items. It tells us what life was like for the ordinary people of Lancashire – the soldiers, their families and the workers back home who kept the country going.

“We are hoping people will bring in anything from that period, be it a family photo, a love letter, some sort of document or object. It doesn’t matter if they don’t know the background behind it, once it’s online then it’s likely people will be able to fill in some of those gaps.

“And while experts scan these precious items, visitors can use the opportunity to enjoy our museum with its replica WW1 trench, meet costumed re-enactors and experience at first hand some of the sights, smells and sounds from a conflict that affected the everyday lives of virtually all Europeans.”

Jill Cousins, Europeana’s executive director, said: “Memorabilia and stories are kept by families for a while, but after a century their significance starts to fade.

“That’s why our online archive, which is collecting material from across Europe in a series of roadshows, is so important.

“The Preston event will give people the opportunity to share their memories, photos and diaries with future generations, while learning about the sacrifices their ancestors made.”

Jamie Andrews, head of English and Drama at the British Library, said he was delighted to be involved in the project.

“We’re already set to digitise more than 400,000 items from national libraries in eight European countries with our Europeana Collections 1914-1918 project,” he said.

“Add to this unseen material from people’s own homes and we will have a truly rounded picture of the impact of the war on families from all the different communities involved.”

Stuart Lee, director of Computing Systems and Services at Oxford University, said: “We’re thrilled to be part of this project. We pioneered this idea of collecting the memories of the community online - and concentrating on an individual town like Preston will give us a wonderful opportunity to assess the lasting legacy of the war in the regions.”

The roadshows are funded in the UK by JISC, which promotes IT innovation in higher education.

Stuart Dempster, programme director at JISC, said: “These roadshows will give universities, colleges, museums, galleries, archives, libraries, the creative industries and schools the opportunity to work together with the public to create new and exciting ways of considering the historical, political and social legacy of the war through innovative digital technologies.”

NB: The following are the UK and Ireland dates for participation, at venues in Preston and Dublin:

Saturday, 10 March 10.00 – 17.30
Museum of Lancashire Stanley Street Preston PR1 4YP
Tel: 01772 534075

Wednesday, 21 March 10.00 - 19.00
National Library of Ireland Kildare Street Dublin 2
Tel: +353 1 603 02 00

(With thanks to the Europeana press office)


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