Guest blog by Rebecca Arnott, Assistant Curator – Royal Engineers Museum. Rebecca tells us all about the museum, what they do and why they got involved with Europeana!
The Royal Engineers Museum, Library and Archive houses one of the largest military collections in the UK. As a Corps Museum (‘Corps’ meaning a military organisation), we hold the arms, uniforms and vehicles that you would expect but alongside these objects, our vast collection houses so much more. The Royal Engineers have been involved in almost every British campaign across the globe which has led to ethnographic material, ephemera, art and photographs being collected and donated to the Museum.
Battle dress blouse and medal ribbons belonging to Lieutenant General Sir Philip Neame. Royal Engineers Museum, CC-BY-SA
With the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War getting closer, we are working with other museums, especially those in Kent where we are based, to create exhibitions and activities dedicated to remembrance and education about the war. Alongside this, our Collections Management teams are working toward a collections review. If you would like to find out more about the collections project and the museum, we will be writing regular posts about it on our blog .
Royal Engineer Arthur Powell’s diary – written in a French prayer book. Royal Engineers Museum, CC-BY-SA
This collections project is allowing us to find a lot of really interesting objects from the Corps’ history, some of which relate to the First World War. Therefore, it is the perfect time for us to get involved with Europeana and the Europeana 1914-1918 project as it provides us with a platform to share the objects relating to the First World War that we have been bringing out of the stores. These objects include a Lieutenant’s First World War service dress jacket with a label attached saying it must not be cleaned as the mud and marks dried into it were from Flanders. Read more about our objects and stories on Europeana 1914-1918 .
As we are already taking photographs of our objects and trying to research a little about them for our own catalogue, the next step of posting them online is relatively straightforward for us. Sometimes the cataloguing process can reduce an object to its measurements and basic physical description. Therefore, it is nice to be able to connect a story with an object in order to post on Europeana; it reminds us that our collection has been entrusted to the museum in order to preserve the object but also to protect and share its story.
Silver spoon belonging to William J. Hayman, the youngest soldier to serve in 1914. Royal Engineers Museum, CC-BY-SA
We are really enthusiastic about Europeana, especially its 1914-1918 project. As 2014 approaches, people are becoming increasingly interested in their family members who fought in the First World War; Europeana not only gives them a basis for their research but an excellent platform to share with others what they find out. As individuals as well as institutions can put their stories online, Europeana encompasses a varied insight into European history. Hours can be spent looking through all sorts of records, picture and stories which make it a truly enjoyable site to browse. Its digital nature makes Europeana both democratic and hugely accessible with an attractive and user-friendly interface.
Watercolours from France by Lt-Col Douglas Champion-Jones. Royal Engineers Museum, CC-BY-SA