Great War Archive rolled out in Germany
The German National Library, Oxford University and Europeana have signed an agreement to digitise family papers and memorabilia from the First World War. The collaboration will bring German soldiers’ stories online alongside their British counterparts in a 1914-18 archive.
JISC planted the seed in 2008 when it funded the The Great War Archive which is run by Oxford University Computing Services. People across Britain contributed family letters, photographs and keepsakes from the War to be digitised. The success of the idea has encouraged Europeana, Europe’s digital archive, library and museum, to bring the German National Library into an alliance with Oxford University to roll out the scheme in Germany.
Alastair Dunning, JISC digitisation programme manager, says: "We are delighted that its initial funding in the Great War Archive has now blossomed to expand on the European dimension of the original project. The inclusion of German narrative in this current will not only provide valuable material for teachers and researchers, but help strengthen the joint understanding of the Great War."
There will be a series of roadshows in libraries around Germany that will encourage people to bring documents and artefacts from family members involved in the First World War to be digitised by mobile scanning units, and to tell the stories that go with them. There will also be a website allowing people to submit material online if they are unable to attend the local events. Everything submitted will also be available through Europeana, where it will add a new perspective to collections of First World War material from institutions across Europe.
Dr Elisabeth Niggemann, the German National Librarian, said, “We are proud to be part of this alliance. These artefacts and their stories have survived and we must record them while they are still part of family memory. Little of this material will ever have been on public display, or been made available to historians. What the 1914-18 War demonstrates, especially at the personal level, is the futility of war, and the pity of it for the men and their families.”
Stuart Lee, the Director of the Great War Archive, said, “Working together with the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek and their partners in Germany to extend this initiative will give it new resonance. The Centenary in 2014 of the first year of the war will prompt many people to discover more about it and find out about family members involved. The 1914-18 archive will bring them close to those who witnessed it at first hand, showing the souvenirs that they kept throughout their lives and telling the stories that they handed down the generations.”
Jill Cousins, Executive Director of Europeana, says that the organisation is well placed to bring together such partnerships: “Europeana acts as the facilitator in an extensive cross-European network of libraries, museums and archives. We aim to create partnerships with organisations from other theatres of the First World War, such as Belgium, France and the Eastern Front, so their stories can be included.”
“The 1914-18 online archive will reflect the reality of the lives of the soldiery on different sides of the conflict. As a people’s history it will offer a vivid testimony that school students will find compelling, and we are keen to work with educational organisations to create teaching resources. We are also planning exhibitions and information services that provide a pan-European focus on activities around the 1914-18 centenary.”