Oxford academics are leading a nationwide fundraising campaign to help preserve personal memories and objects of the First World War.
Godley’s Own Oxford Volunteers marching past Sheldonian during the First World War
As we approach the last leg of the centenary commemorations of the First World War, Oxford academics are launching an attempt to ensure vital scattered records of the experience are not lost forever.
Lest We Forget is an initiative which aims to train local communities across the UK to run digital collection days.
At a collection day, experts take digital copies of objects and stories of the generation who lived through the First World War.
‘Almost everyone was impacted by the First World War,’ said project leader Dr Stuart Lee of Oxford University’s English Faculty.
‘We want to make sure that those boxes of memories and memorabilia that kept in our attics, passed down through the generations, are not thrown away.’
The project builds on the pioneering work the University did in 2008 to get members of the public to submit items online that they held related to World War One. In just three months the earlier campaign collected more than 6,000 items — which can be viewed online for free.
The methods the University developed were then used across mainland Europe where 200,000 items were collected from 15 countries as part of the Europeana 1914-1918 project.
Lest We Forget aims to bring this back home. It will capture the stories of the Great War before they are lost forever, preserving them for future generations. The team plans to do this through mass-digitisation of objects and memories.
The programme will help local communities organise and run digitisation days to capture memories of the First World War that have been passed down through families, as well as photographs, diaries, letters and mementos that tell the story of a generation at war.
Once the stories have been collected, they will be made available to the public through a large, free-to-use online database, which will be launched on 11 November 2018 to complement projects and events nationwide commemorating one hundred years since the end of the war.
Land girls mounted on working horses at Kelmscott
The database and its contents will be free to reuse, enabling the stories and experiences of the past to move into research and education today.
In order to support local communities and to train local digital champions who can capture memories and objects, Lest We Forget aims to raise at least £80,000 through a campaign hosted on OxReach, the University’s crowdfunding platform.
‘This website will be one of the most important resources for people teaching, studying or with an interest in the First World War,’ said Dr Lee, who is also the University's Deputy Chief Information Officer.
Archive photographs (including Sister Grundy outside the nurses quarters at Merton College, converted into the Oxford section of the military 3rd Southern General Hospital) reproduced courtesy of Oxford University Images / Oxfordshire History Centre.