Digital Content for the First World War
The impact of the First World War was immense. It not only changed the shape and politics of the world but challenged and undermined established notions about society and individuals’ roles within it. 2014 marks the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War and the beginning of a succession of commemorations of landmark campaigns and battles alongside consideration of one of the biggest social upheavals the world has experienced in living memory.
As such, the First World War is one of the most widely covered topics in further and higher education and schools, but surprisingly little is known about what aspects of the war are being taught, the key research questions or indeed the digital content available to support education and research in this area.
‘Digital Content for World War One’, based on a study undertaken by Kings College London, begins to address these questions and also makes the important point that the Centenary offers the opportunity to reappraise received notions of the experience and legacy of the conflict across disciplines. For example, it provides a spearhead for engagement with aspects of the war that have been little explored such as the global nature of the war, medical and nursing history and the study of wider economic and social issues.
The report also notes that from a 21st century perspective, the digital experience is key. However, whilst a vast plethora of collections on the First World war exist in digital and analogue forms across the UK and indeed, globally, much remains underexploited by education and research due to its sheer volume, its presentation collection ‘silos’. To draw attention to the breadth of often underused content as well as to aid closer alignment and reduce duplication of effort between the educational and cultural sector who are developing digital content or working to commemorate the Centenary, JISC have also funded Kings College London to develop a new online resource ‘UK World War One Collections’. The database allows researchers and content managers to search for UK university, archive, library and museum holdings relating to the conflict.
The findings and recommendations of the report are insightful and would potentially appeal to a broad audience e.g. museums, galleries, archives, libraries, the creative industries, public-service broadcasters, universities, colleges and schools. They consider some of the most pervasive barriers to digital content on the First World War, whether they are cultural, legal, economic or technical and offers insight around their possible circumvention.
The forthcoming centenary of the First World War provides us with a remarkable opportunity to utilise information and communications technology to provide researchers and students with unique insights into the ‘war to end all wars’. This report outlines that JISC shares a unity of purpose with other organisations across the UK to ensure that current and future generations of learners, teachers and researcher have access to the best that digital content and resources can offer, including providing access to many new and important resources