Lest We Forget – project ending

Lest We Forget is a University of Oxford initiative working with schools and community groups who want to run their own community collection events, digitising and sharing WW1 memorabilia and stories. It was launched in 2017 after a successful crowdfunding campaign. With additional funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the project was then extended to run until June 2019, jointly led by the University of Oxford and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

The project has initiated and supported a large number of collection events. The main focus has been to engage and support community groups and schools, allowing them to run their own events. The project has created documentation and guides, provided training and been available to offer advice and answer questions, but it is the local groups who have planned and run the events and collected the material. Digitised objects and stories have been uploaded to a shared platform, hosted by the University of Oxford. The project has managed to collect several hundreds of contributions, many featuring large number of digital images of letters, photos, objects and more. The archive can be accessed for free and the material can ebe viewed and used. All the collected material will also be deposited with Europeana, to form part of the large, international collection hosted there.

To learn more about Lest We Forget, please follow the links listed here:

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Europeana Emigration – new community collection

‘Migration’ is a topical issue with many dimensions in the present and the past. Throughout 2018, the European Year of Cultural Heritage, Europeana will be running a new community collection initiative around the theme of ‘migration’. The Europeana Migration collection will contain material contributed by the general public, either online or at a community collection event, as well as items from museums, libraries, galleries, and archives across Europe.

We’re looking for documentary evidence, material culture and personal stories reflecting migration movements in Europe over many centuries, as well as how these have affected the arts and sciences. (from the Europeana Migration website)

The collection will be featured on the Europeana Migration website. On the site, you can already find over 200,000 items from across Europe, giving a broad and diverse illustration of some of the many facets of migration. The site also features exhibitions and galleries, such as ‘Leaving Europe’ which explores European migration to the US in the 19th century, looking both at the homelands of the migrants and their lives in their new country. The ‘Famous Migrants’ gallery highlights a selection of well-known people from across Europe who were migrants or refugees and worked in the arts and sciences. All the material in the collection is free to explore, and many items can also be reused.

A family with 10 children are going to emigrate, CC BY-SA Gooi en Vecht Historisch

Anyone with a story, letter, photograph or other objects can add this to the collection through the website. Special events will also be held where people are invited to share their personal migration stories and material (for dates and venues, see the listing on the website)

Sharing your migration history can help us to tell a really big story – the story of Europe and the people who live here. Your story is part of Europe’s rich and shared history of migration, and now it can be recorded for the future. (from the Europeana Migration website)

Europeana Migration uses the Oxford Community Collection Model, creating an archive through a combination of online contributions and material collected at interactive events.

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Running a WW1 School Digital Collection Day

Lest We Forget‘ is a community collection project made possible through a successful crowdfunding campaign run in the summer of 2017. The project was launched in October 2017 and has since then been working with schools and community groups that wish to run public WW1 community collection events, called ‘Digital Collection Days’. This guest post brings together some experiences from the work with two schools: Cheney, a secondary and sixth form school in Oxford, and the independent Our Lady’s Abingdon (senior school).

A school ‘Digital Collection Day’ involves members of the community being invited to bring in their Great War stories, photographs, diaries, and letters to a school, where students and staff document and digitize these vital items so that they can be saved for future generations. The documented stories and objects are then uploaded to a free-to-use Oxford University database, where they will be freely accessible to all members of the public to discover, research, and learn. Taking part in a Digital Collection Day offers students a unique opportunity to interact directly with history, taking part in interviewing, recording, and digitizing important First World War objects and stories.

All you need is:
1. a room
2. a digital camera
3. a computer with internet 4. staff and student volunteers


One of the key success factors for these two events has been having a couple of motivated teachers in each school as the main organisers. They secured the venues, got the students to volunteer, arranged the training (see below), and also managed and oversaw logistics on the day.


As both of these schools were local to the Oxford-based Lest We Forget team, we were able to offer two sets of training. First, we visited the schools and ran a 45 minute session for the teachers. Essentially, this was a walk-through of the collection day itself (using the slide set at: https://lwf.web.ox.ac.uk/organise-digital-collection-day). We also visited each venue (a school library and theatre, respectively) and talked through the logistics and set-up.

The week before the event, we also ran a 30-45 minute training slot with the student volunteers. We took them through a shortened version of the slide set (also available at: https://lwf.web.ox.ac.uk/organise-digital-collection-day ) and did a walk-through of an WW1 item showing what would happen at the welcome desk, the interview, and the digitisation station respectively.


Example of room layout/set-up

In both schools, the Digital Collection Day was held in a large room booked out for this event (the library and the school hall/theatre respectively). The rooms were a good size, quite near an entrance that could be managed, and had space not just for the Collection Day activities but also to host other activities, such as the Frontline Living History exhibition (see below). A Digital Collection Day could also be run in other types of venues, for example a series of smaller rooms, as long as it is possible to smoothly move visitors and objects between different stations: welcome desk and waiting area, interview, and digitisation. Continue reading

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Lest We Forget

Students scanning documents

‘Lest We Forget’ (LWF) is a nationwide initiative, led by the University of Oxford, which aims to recognise and record those stories, objects and memories from World War One which survive – not in museum collections or history books – but in the hearts and homes of the very many families and individuals affected. The project uses the Oxford Community Collection Model to engage contributors both online and through various activities, such as digital collection events where visitors are welcome to bring their objects and stories to be digitially added to an online platform.  It follows on from similar previous projects, like the Great War Archive and Europeana 1914-1918, with a particular focus on collaboration with schools and local community groups.

Thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign the project is able both to provide practical support to local communities interested in running their own Digital Collection Days, and to enable individuals to upload material directly via its online platform.

Student recording information from a visitor

A first collection event was held at the Cheney School in Oxford in November 2017. A group of students worked with the LWF team to record stories and digitise objects brought in by members of the local community. The event was a great success and showed that running a digital community collection event can be a rewarding activity for school students and staff alike, as well as ensure that valuable historic information and material is preserved and shared. The project team is now working with other schools and groups to plan and prepare future digital collection events and related activities.

The project has prepared a series of guides and documents that can be made freely available to prospective collection event organisers and anyone interested in bringing stories and experiences from the First World War to students, researchers and educators today.

To learn more about the project and find out about available support, please visit the project website https://lwf.web.ox.ac.uk or email ww1collections@it.ox.ac.uk. Alternatively, visit the facebook or twitter pages for latest news and instant messaging facilities.



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Crowdfunding – part 3

The ‘Lest We Forget’ crowdfunding campaign ran from June 5th and received a large number of contributions, from £1 and more, nearly £20,000 in all. The campaign also drew a lot of attention to the project, and offered new opportunities. That meant that even though we did not reach our original target for the collection, we will be able to run a version of the project. We are very grateful to the donors who let us receive their donations, despite not reaching the original target (the normal condition is that if a campaign does not reach its set goal, no pledges will be received). The graph gives a schematic overview of the result of the crowdfunding campaign, with the individual pledges plotted along the horizontal axis in the order they were received, and the growth of the collection indicated by the line. It is interesting to note that although there are some large contributions that stand out, the majority of the pledges are for fairly small amount. We are very pleased to see that so many individuals were interested in the project and happy to make a contribution.

Pledges received – each contribution (red bar) and overall collection (grey line)

The plan for the project now is to work with schools and community groups that want to run their own digital collection event. We will provide guidelines and training material and support the organisers in different ways (see https://lwf.web.ox.ac.uk/organise-digital-collection-day ). There will also be an online collection site where anyone can add their material to the collection (http://lwf.it.ox.ac.uk ). We are still looking for more opportunities, and are pursuing various avenues to be able to add to what we can offer. It is still possible to donate to the project, and we are very grateful for all contributions, large and small at :  http://ouinnov.co/2uKvq1q

To learn more about the project, and see how you can be involved, please visit the project webpage  https://lwf.web.ox.ac.uk/. To donate to the project and the work it is doing, please visit http://lwf.it.ox.ac.uk. Every contribution is very welcome. To contact the project team, please email us at ww1collections@it.ox.ac.uk. You can also follow us and keep in touch via our facebook or twitter pages.

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Crowdfunding – part 2

So our crowdfunding campaign has started and we can see the pledges trickling in. The idea is to generate funds to allow us to support community groups who want to digitise, preserve and share their WW1 heritage.

Considerable effort has gone in to the preparation of the campaign. That meant starting by looking at what kind of project we want to run, and scope it out carefully so that we know what level of funding it would require. The way the crowdfunding works is that we only get the funds if the campaign meets its target. Setting it too high may mean we get nothing. Still it is not possible to set too low a target – we have to make sure we can deliver the project. In our case, we are hoping to raise £80,000. However, we could deliver a smaller project for less, so we have set our minimum target at £40,000, with the hope of raising twice that. That means that if we get £40,000 or more, the project will go ahead. If we get £39,990, the campaign has failed and the money will be returned to the people who pledged it. That means nobody risks giving money to a project that cannot go ahead.

In addition to planning and costing the project, the bulk of the preparatory work for the campaign has been to prepare the communication activities. If nobody knows about the fundraising we won’t get any contributions, so a good communications plan is a major requirement. To do so has involved liaising with a range of people who can offer advice and guidance and creating a lot of lists; lists of people and groups that can help get the message out, lists of people and organisations that can support us in one way or another, lists of potential donors (corporate, charitable, individual), lists of channels and methods to use, and more. We have drawn up key messages to communicate, prepared information packs with illustrations, descriptions, and pictures, and sent out press releases. Some of this was disseminated before the campaign started, other is to be released throughout the campaign.

One of the videos created for the campaign (click image to see video)

Social media plays a big role in our campaign, as a means to reach large number of people quickly. As part of this we have tried something new to us: Thunderclap. Thunderclap calls itself a ‘crowdspeaking platform’ and is a means to let you release a message through a large number of social media accounts at the same time. You ask you friends and contacts to sign up, and on a set date and time the message is sent out through everyone’s accounts. It happens once and only once. Out thunderclap took place on June 6th at 9am. It was sent out through 113 accounts which together have an audience of approximately 250,000. Did you see it? If not, you can still be part of the campaign and help us save the memories from the First World War before they are gone forever. Just go to https://oxreach.hubbub.net/p/lestweforget/ and donate. If you are quick, your contribution will be matched by Europeana, which means that for every pound you donate, we get two. And we all can look forward to preserving more stories of the First World War. Lest We Forget.

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Lest We Forget

This summer, Oxford University are launching ‘Lest We Forget’, a new community-based initiative to preserve materials held by the public dating from the First World War.

Building on from the success of our ‘Great War Archive’ in 2008, a mass-digitisation project that attracted the direct submission of over 6,500 items (now available online), we want to go even further and rescue the many remaining traces of the war in attics, drawers, and cupboards in homes across the UK still waiting to be uncovered.

With the loss of all veterans of 1914-1918, and the rapid fading of those years from living memory, this campaign provides one final effort to ensure that as much material as possible is saved for posterity before it’s too late. These centenary years have provided an important impetus for a renewed interest in the generation that fought the conflict, but we want to ensure that memory lives on beyond 2018.

Training local volunteers in archival recording skills, the Lest We Forget initiative seeks to actively engage communities nationwide in the digital preservation of documents, photographs, and memorabilia. Local schools, care homes, and community groups will be invited to partake in dedicated training events and take a lead in collection days for members of the public to share family collections.

Every item collected will then be published in 2018 on a free-to-use online database for children, scholars, and the wider public alike to promote understanding of the Great War, further historical research, and secure the stories of those who lived through it.

However, we cannot achieve this alone: on 5 June 2017, our crowdfunding site will go live as we aim to raise the £80,000 required for training days, outreach activities, and equipment. Please help us to spread the word by following us on Facebook and Twitter (@ww1centenary, #WW1collectionday), and sharing our posts with colleagues, friends, and family.

Every donation is another step closer to ensuring that the sacrifices of this war are not forgotten. Please go to  oxreach.hubbub.net/p/lestweforget/  and pledge your support.

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Connecting Histories

The workshop concluded with a visit to the Special Collection in the Bodleian Library, where participants had a chance to explore some remarkable Early Modern material

RunCoCo staff have just returned from a very engaging and stimulating workshop where participants met to develop ideas for a collaborative project involving local historians and record offices in academic research.

The workshop, organised by Abigail Williams and Jonathan Healey, is the first step towards creating and running a major project which will combine the skills, experiences and efforts of different types of participants. Questions that were discussed included what such a project would involve, who might participate and what digital components should be considered, amongst other things. It is obvious that non-academic researchers and archives have a lot to offer, and part of the workshop was used to find out more about what kinds of skills, information or benefits they might want to gain and consider how this could be provided. Ideas that came up include skills enhancement workshops (for example palaeography training), talks and events, and opportunities to raise awareness of the local archives. The need for archives and record offices to show that the archive is being used and can generate revenue was recognised as one that cannot be ignored. It was suggested that the opportunity to be part of this kind of collaborative research project would be appreciated, and it was agreed that recognising everyone’s contribution to the project would be important.

As there was general approval of the idea to run this kind of project, the project team will now go on to draw up a proposal for a pilot phase. This will include working more closely with local archives and record offices to identify the type of material to work on, and to define the research questions to address. It is presumed that the discussions started in the workshop will continue, and thereby influence the development of the project proposal.


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Crowdfunding Community Collections

One question that RunCoCo has been asked repeatedly relates to costs. How much does it cost to run a community collection project? Some assume that because you can benefit from the input of dedicated and hard-working volunteers, there are no costs involved. However, as anyone running a community collection knows, it is not free. How much it costs depends on what kind of project it is and how it is run, what support you can draw on and what resources you have. Even if volunteers are happy to give their time for free, you may need to provide refreshments for when they are working, and you may want to offer to cover their travel costs or provide transport. There may be costs associated with using a venue, advertising your events, and printing publicity and information materials, not to mention the need for digitisation equipment, computers and space to store the collected material. There are ways you can minimise thes costs, and RunCoCo are happy to share our experiences and tips with anyone planning a new project. Nevertheless, there is no getting away from the fact that resources are needed, and access to funding makes it easier to cover this need.

How you get the necessary funds will vary. We are currently involved in a new initiative where we are looking at whether we can fund local community collection events thorugh crowdfunding. Crowdfunding is not a new idea, and is used in many different contexts, from start-up business seeking investors to individuals asking for support to cover medical bills. The University of Oxford has recently set up ‘OxReach‘, a new crowdfunding platform for researchers who seek philanthropic funding for projects that do not naturally fit with either research or commercialisation funding. In contrast to projects and initiatives seeking substantial grants from one main funder, the crowdfunding campaigns seek to get a large number of people to donate a small amount of money each.

Lest We Forget is a crowdfunding campaign that seeks funding to support local community collection events. The idea is to generate enough funding to be able to provide training, equipment and other support to local groups, schools and associations who want to digitise material relating to the First World War. The campaign will launch on June 5th and go on until July 5th. In addition to running the campaign, we will be reflecting on the experience of doing so, and share our experiences here. Keep an eye out for our future posts. And do support the campaign by telling others about it. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter (@ww1centenary, #WW1collectionday), and feel free to share our posts with colleagues, friends, and family.

About the Lest We Forget project

Back in 2008, Oxford University launched The Great War Archive, a mass-digitisation project that successfully gathered over 6,500 materials relating to the First World War held by the general public. Building on from this success, Lest We Forget is a brand new initiative to save as many more pictures, letters and memories as possible through community-based collection days across the country. We are currently seeking to raise £80,000 to fund training days for local volunteers, acquire equipment, and offer outreach events.

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Linguamania – crowdsourcing languages

How many languages are spoken in an Oxford museum on a dark Friday night in January?  

That may seem like an odd question to ask, but it makes more sense when put into the context of the Ashmolean Museum ‘Linguamania’ event. ‘LinguaMania’ is one of the themed evening events arranged at the museum as part of their LiveFriday series. With the aim to “to bring alive the museum’s multicultural world through the art and science of language, this particular event featured a variety of language-related activities and exhibits.

One of the activities on the night was run by the Language Landscape project which is crowdsourcing samples of language. Anyone who wants can make a recording and add it to the Language Landscape map at http://languagelandscape.org/. The recording may be of someone speaking their native language or a language they have learned, and the topic can be anything they choose to share.

A busy event at the Ashmolean Museum

What makes Language Landscape different to many other language recording projects is that it is mapping where the recording was made, not where the language is from or where the speaker was born. This means that the collection shows the use and variety of languages – not only across different countries or regions but also in one place, possibly even at one time (like at the LinguaMania event). This offers a small, but important, insight into language diversity and illustrates the richness of our current cultural landscape.

To return to the question at the top: it may not be possible to give an exact number, but the Language Landscape recording activity at the LinguaMania event resulted in 68 recordings which feature at least 40 different languages/dialects/varieties (some of which are the first on the Language Landscape map!).

To explore the recordings made on the night, and many, many more, please visit the Language Landscape website http://languagelandscape.org/. And do make and add your own recordings!

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