Meeting in No Man’s Land

For over nine years Academic IT Services has led engagement and outreach activities at the University using crowdsourcing techniques. Notable projects have included The Great War Archive and Europeana 1914-1918. Recently the boot was on the other foot when one member of staff, Alun Edwards, was involved in a crowdsourcing event as a participant for the first time. Alun was among 12 British descendants of families who experienced the First World War to exchange their family histories with German descendants at a unique meeting in Rosenheim, Bavaria.

The event was organised as part of a project which is being run by the UK-based charity Age Exchange with a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The project, called ‘Meeting in No Man’s Land’, is exploring how German and British families have held and interpreted their First World War family histories across the generations and is collecting, recording, transcribing and digitising stories and artefacts.

Two descendants of the First World War exchange histories from Britain and Bavaria around a family artefact.

Two descendants exchange histories from Britain and Bavaria around a family artefact from the First World War.

The Rosenheim event featured a number of staged exchanges, in each of which a British descendant and a Bavarian descendant explained and compared some aspect of their family’s heritage (see photo), especially the effect of the First World War on children. Other activities included art therapies, sense memories and oral histories. It was clear that there were some very emotional moments.

A key output of the project will be a documentary film, which will be shown in the UK and in Germany. In addition to the film and other art installations, each story will be uploaded to HistoryPin for researchers and teachers to use, and will rest in archive form at both The British Library and Age Exchange. The project is being informed and enriched by research carried out by the Dachau Institut Psychologie und Pädagogik in Germany, and by Prof Mike Roper and Dr Rachel Duffet from the University of Essex. Mike and Rachel are part of University of Hertfordshire’s AHRC/HLF Engagement Centre ‘Everyday Lives in War: experience and memory of the First World War‘ and have contributed their reflections on the Rosenheim event on the Engagement Centre’s blog.

The connection between Academic IT Services and Age Exchange was established through our crowdsourcing and community collections service, which provided advice and support for Age Exchange’s recent ‘Children of the Great War’ project. For more information about this service, please visit our crowdsourcing and community collections website or send an email to academicit@it.ox.ac.uk.

For an overview of crowdsourcing and some other initiatives at the University, read our recent article ‘Crowdsourcing: the essentials’.

Image credit: Age Exchange via Twitter @NoMansLand2016 @Age_Exchange

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