You don’t have to be particularly eagle-eyed to notice all the references to World War One on the Europeana site, as well as on our blogs, Facebook and Twitter feeds. But you might be wondering why we’ve got a particular focus on it. Well, let me tell you!
In two years’ time, it’ll be 2014, and exactly one hundred years since the start of World War One. The last combat veterans are no longer with us to share their memories of the war, so if we don’t record the tales handed down through their families, many valuable stories and experiences of the war will be gone forever. For an event of such historical, social and cultural significance, that would be nothing less than a tragedy. So, we’re doing something about it.
Along with Oxford University IT Services and a whole host of partners in a range of European countries, the Europeana 1914-1918 project has been holding a series of family history roadshows so that people can bring along their families’ keepsakes and memorabilia to be digitised. By collecting stories and items from across the continent, we are developing a unique pan-European archive of World War One. Through this archive, stories from countries across Europe are being shared online, accessed by others worldwide and saved for future generations.
People have travelled long distances to attend previous roadshows in Denmark, Germany, Luxembourg, Ireland, Slovenia and the UK, and brought with them a huge variety of items and artefacts including bullet-stopping bibles and crucifixes, photographs, medals, hand-painted toys sent home from the front, military certificates and personal letters. Looking at the objects and listening to the stories passed down through families, historians have been able to reveal answers to mysteries as well as stories of daring and of heartache. You can explore the items collected and the stories told on the Europeana 1914-1918 website, which is available in six languages.
The next of our Europeana 1914-1918 Family History Roadshows will take place on 3 November 2012 at Banbury Museum, Oxfordshire, UK. After that, we’ve got roadshows in Limerick Ireland (5 November), various locations in Denmark (9-15 November), Cyprus (1-2 December) and Ypres, Belgium (12-13 December).
So, why Banbury next? Like many Oxfordshire towns, Banbury was greatly affected by WW1. Many fought and died with local Territorial and Yeomanry units and the names of 325 men and one woman are recorded on the Cenotaph in People’s Park. Daily life on the home front was also affected: soldiers were billeted in private homes in Banbury, women ‘Munitionettes’ produced artillery shells at the Ministry of Munitions’ National Filling Factory No.9, a canteen was established at the railway station and a Red Cross hospital was set up to support nearby Horton General. Across Oxfordshire, food rationing and restrictions on travel and lighting made life harder for ordinary people. From Wantage to Woodstock and beyond, the war touched the lives of most.
You can see some examples of Oxfordshire memorabilia already on the Europeana 1914-1918 site. Find out what 14-year-old Chloe Coules found out about her great-great-grandfathers and why Kevin Northover hopes the Europeana 1914-1918 project will unearth more details about his family’s story.
If you’ve got family memories and objects to share, you can come along to a collection day, or upload your digitised items to the website yourself at europeana1914-1918.eu/en/contributor To find out more, follow the project on Twitter at @europeana1914 or ‘like’ the Facebook page.