The results of one of the Education Enhancement Team’s projects is being written about in the national press this week. Over the years you may have heard one of us talk about our work community-sourcing First World War memories from across Europe, and we often tell a story about a man and a matchbox. We include the story in most of our press releases (since 2007) and the last time we wrote about it was in a national history journal this week. Maybe that was the trigger? For whatever reason the matchbox story has been picked up this week by The Daily Mail (and the Mirror and the Express). Their articles mention the IT Services projects The Great War Archive and Europeana 1914-1918, without very specific links – but hopefully some readers will take note. If the articles pique your interest you can see more at http://www.europeana1914-1918.eu/en/contributions/3948
There used to be a rule of thumb, if The Guardian writes about your project you see an extra 20,000 website visitors but if the Daily Mail writes then you could see spikes of 200,000 to half a million. We have recorded much more further impact and engagement about the project and specifically this story in the local community, in family history and in books. Obviously that doesn’t make it into the Daily Mail, but we keep banging on about it! Here’s the text submitted for that history publication:
Will you share your local story from the Great War online?
Europeana 1914-1918 is a website where you can search for family and local history about the First World War from across Europe. It is based on the work of the University of Oxford and in particular the Oxford Community Collection model which encourages groups to engage with their audience online and face-to-face – for example to upload and share online the results of local history or community projects. Here’s a particularly striking story about the possibilities of sharing your local history online, showing in a small way the opportunities and benefits of unlocking the family vaults:
George Cavan served in the Glasgow Highlanders. At the end of March 1918 George was away at a training camp in Scotland when he received orders to go to France. The train he was on went through his home (Carluke in Scotland) but would not stop there. He hastily scribbled this note to his family “Dear wife and bairns, Off to France – love to you all, Daddy.” On the other side he wrote the name and address of his wife, Jean. George stuffed the note into a matchbox and threw it out onto the platform as the train whistled through Carluke station. Someone picked up the matchbox and delivered it to his wife. George was killed in action just two weeks later at the Battle of Hazelbrouck near Ypres in Belgium. All that was sent back to his wife was a small tin box, containing a purse, his identification tags and an old medallion. This story was uploaded to our website, by George’s granddaughter in Australia. Soon afterwards we wrote a blog about the matchbox and received a comment from George’s family in Scotland who were unaware of the matchbox story! Through this the family branches were able to join together their elements of their ancestors’ stories. This formed the basis for a chapter of a book, published by the British Library, called “Hidden stories of the First World War” by Jackie Storer. A local historian has also contacted the website because they wanted to find more about George Cavan – who was identified in a photograph of the local bowling club in 1914.
George’s story began by being locked in the family memory, not available to anyone else – actually not available to ALL the family. Uploading material online has opened the story up to the world. Would you share online the fruits of your local history research into the First World War? Register for a user account on the website (www.europeana1914-1918.eu/) and start to add your research or just a sample -to show the rest of the world what you are doing.