Museums and the Web 2015 workshop references

These are the references from my workshop “Crowdsourcing user-generated content: using the Oxford Community Collection Model to engage audiences and create collections” (at MW2015, the annual conference of Museums and the Web, April 8-11, 2015, Chicago).

Chicago river front

I will occasionally be tweeting from the conference, especially around the professional forum I’ll be participating in about gathering user-generated content of the US in the First World War. Alun Edwards, Academic IT, University of Oxford

Support for crowdsourcing, community collections and social media:

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Ready for MW15 Workshop, Chicago

Slide from workshop: Marilyn Monroe, Slovenian farmer, Angela Merkel, school pupils in the trenches at the Lancs Museum

Engaging audiences online and in-person

Finally, RunCoCo is ready for the workshop “Crowdsourcing user-generated content: using the Oxford Community Collection Model to engage audiences and create collections” (at MW2015, the annual conference of Museums and the Web, April 8-11, 2015, Chicago).

Alun Edwards, Academic IT, University of Oxford – representing RunCoCo will occasionally be tweeting from the conference, especially around the professional forum he’ll be participating in about gathering user-generated content of the US in the First World War.

Watch this space for the references and links from the workshop, and if time some reflections on the conference itself.

“Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye…!”

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Europeana 1914-1918

For the last four-and-a-half years, much of our time has been spent on the Europeana 1914-1918 project. Using the Oxford Community Collection Model, the project has created a large archive comprising over 13,000 stories and 170,000 digital images relating to the First World War, all freely available online for anyone to use.

Map of Europe

The Europeana 1914-1915 project has run collection events across Europe

Among our roles in the large, multi-national project has been to support those who plan and run the collection activities, both the online component and the 150+ individual collection events that have been held across Europe so far. We have provided advice and support, run training and coaching sessions, created guides and template forms, and taken on different roles at various collection events. Despite short deadlines and long shifts, the work has been stimulating and rewarding. We are very grateful to have been given this opportunity to take what started here at Oxford as a small pilot project in 2007 and help turn it into a large, multi-national initiative that has involved thousands of people from across the Globe.

The Europeana Awareness project, which funded the 1914-1918 activities, finished at the end of 2014. That does not, however, mean the end of Europeana 1914-1918. The archive is available online, and it is still possible to add material to it through the website New collection events are planned, and we expect to see the archive continue to grow. Important activities to come are also the exploration and study of the material in the archive. It is unavoidable that the existence of this collection will inform future research and make possible new types of studies.

The RunCoCo team are happy to support and promote the Europeana 1914-1918 collection and other First-World-War-related activities also in the future. Please contact us if you want to know more about contributing to the archive, running collection events, or if you want to discss using the material for research, teaching or something else.

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Shaping Europe

View from the 'office'

View from ‘our’ window

This week we found ourselves working in a slightly different space. For a few days, crews from Europeana, Facts & Files, and RunCoCo set up camp in the European Parliament in Brussels to run the ‘Shaping Europe’ event. Members of the European Parliament, commissioners, assistants, and anyone working in the building were invited to come along to see what we do and to share their stories, memories and objects from the First World War or 1989. Project staff from Europeana 1914-1918, Europeana 1989 and 89 Voices were on hand to record interviews and digitise matterial and, above all, talk about the work we have been doing over the last few years.

The ‘Shaping Europe’ event ended with a reception where participants were treated to brief presentations by, amongst others, Tibor Navracsics (European Commissioner for Culture, Education, Youth and Sport), Jill Cousins (Executive Director, Europeana), Frank Drauschke (Historian, Co-founder Facts & Files) and Patrick Lefèvre (Director General of the Royal Library of Belgium). After the presentations, visitors and speakers had a chance to mingle and talk to project staff, see the digitisation and interview areas and share their stories and material.

Jill Cousins

Jill Cousins speaking at the evening reception

Picture of two people at a desk

Ready to receive the visitors


Recording and cataloguing material

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Oxfordshire Family History Fair

Getting started with your family history research or looking to add further to your tree? Then why not come along to the Oxfordshire Family History Society’s Family History Fair on Saturday 4th October at The Marlborough School, Woodstock, OX20 1LP between 10 and 4? One of team will be there to discuss how you can contribute to and explore the European First World War archive, Europeana 1914-1918 together with our other projects (Oxford at War, WW1 Centenary: Continuations and Beginnings) There will be a focus on Oxfordshire with books, CDs and search services of parish registers, but also internet access so that our helpers can take you further afield. Neighbouring and local counties including Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, will also be represented at the fair by their history societies with stalls and advisors, and genealogical suppliers, military groups, and booksellers will have stands you can visit too.

Entrance is free as is the parking, and tea, coffee and light refreshments are available. To help you plan your day and see what support and resources are available, please visit:

We hope to see you there!

Oxfordshire Family History Fair: we hope to see you there!

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Reading Roadshow


Stories are shared at the Reading Museum Family History day

On Sunday 10 August, members of the public were invited to Reading Museum to share their family stories and memorabilia from the First World War. Subject experts were on hand to help identify the objects brought in and record the stories that were told. Objects were digitised during the event, and stories and images will be uploaded to the Europeana 1914-1918 website.

Despite heavy rain, a queue of people formed as soon as the doors opened, and the panel of experts were soon very busy looking at the objects and discussing them and the accompanying stories that were brought in. The digitising crew had a mighty task to keep up with the flow of objects. Hundreds of photographs and scans were taken of letters, diaries, photographs, medals, souvenirs and a range of other objects.

IMG_5340sm2A team of staff and volunteers from the museum made sure the event was a success, with a number of interesting stories recorded and objects digitised. Interns from the University of Oxford IT Services filmed various aspects of the event. The film will be used for instruction and information videos to be used by future event organisers and volunteers.

After the event follows a period of intense work when the stories and digitised objects are finalised and added to the Europeana 1914-1918 website where they can be explored together with tens of thousands of other stories from across the globe telling ‘people’s history’ of the war.

Anyone who couldn’t make it to the Family History Day but who wants to share their material can do so online on the Europeana 1914-1918 website. Dates and venues for future roadshows are listed on the Europeana 1914-1918 website.

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Theatre, Discussion and WW1: Children of the Great War

Over the past 18 months Europeana 1914-18 has teamed up with intergenerational charity Age Exchange to film and record interviews with members of the London public as part of their superb Children of the Great War project (see earlier post). Those involved have shared immensely powerful and moving family histories of how their family was affected by the First World War, then and across subsequent generations. People have shared memories of parents and grandparents, uncles and aunts across the home front, the theatres of war, and the family legacy of this tragic conflict. We have supported the team in recording and archiving over 127 family histories and digitalising 5300 letters, diaries, photos and artefacts.  To see all of the materials shared by Age Exchange in Europeana 1914-1918, then click here.

To celebrate the success of the project and give something back to those who have contributed, Age Exchange have coordinated two exciting events:

1.  Launch of the Children of the Great War visual art installation by Ivan Ritches and Simon Purins and panel discussion about the project on Wednesday 30th July 6.30-8.30pm.

2.  Children of the Great War theatrical performance Friday 1st August 7pm and Saturday 2nd August 3pm.

Both events will be held at the Bridewell Theatre, 14 Bride Lane, Fleet Street  EC4Y 8EQ ( Tickets for the play are £5 and can be obtained from contacting or (telephone: 020 8318 9105).

The play, devised with an intergenerational cast, presents some of these remarkable true stories for the first time. They are performed through dance, words, and live music, with some of the original story-givers performing their own histories as part of this unique production. These scenes will include projection of personal Great War family photos, diaries and archive film footage. Altogether the evening aims to bring to life the humour, fear and heartbreak of soldiers and their families both at the time of the Great War and over the following century.

Check your calenders and come join us at these two extraordinary events. Our team will be taking part in the panel discussion on 30th which will consider the distinctive approach of the project and how it contributes to the wider activity commemorating the First World War. Others getting involved in the discussion include Louise Macfarlane (one of the curators from the newly opened Imperial War Museum) and David Savill, Simon Puriņš and Ivan Riches from the Age Exchange team. We look forward to hopefully seeing you there…


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Have you got a ‘citizen humanities’ crowdsourcing idea for the Zooniverse?

Autograph book, belonged to Aline Mary Capp

Autograph book belonging to nurse Aline Mary Capp. CC BY-SA Catherine Mellor

The Constructing Scientific Communities project, part of the AHRC’s Science in Culture theme, is inviting proposals for citizen science or ‘citizen humanities’ projects to be developed as part of the platform. Proposals are welcome from researchers whose work would benefit from the active participation of tens or even hundreds of volunteers: (details including proposal form NB deadline July 25th 2014).

This is exactly the sort of project which RunCoCo (from the University of Oxford) has supported in the past, if you would like to find out more about how we can help see our free resources.

Now I’ve just got to find the time to submit a proposal about the hundreds of thousands of resources in the Europeana 1914-1918 website, user-generated content (like the autograph book – right – belonging to nurse Aline Mary Capp) as well as the professionally digitised content from national institutions from across Europe.

This is a cross-post from Enhancing Education blog.

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Again, grit and humour exhibited

Alun Edwards writes about three events he has recently attended as a representative for the RunCoCo and Education Enhancement teams.

The anniversaries of the centenary of the First World War race towards us, and so do the new exhibitions and books. We have been privileged to be involved in digital projects around teaching and researching the history and the literature and the family history from the conflict. Our advice and our content from The Great War Archive and Europeana 1914-1918 are called upon for this year’s events, and in the Education Enhancement team blog I blog about just three must-see examples from the last few days:

Baroness Blackstone

Baroness Blackstone introduced the British Library exhibition praising the work of the University of Oxford and Europeana 1914-1918 (Image: Stephen Bull)

Again… but siloed collections, siloed commemoration logo

The First World War Centenary Partnership led by IWM

Unfortunately, it sometimes feels like the University of Oxford’s involvement is the only common factor in these events. There is obviously so much activity, in museums, libraries, associations, around the commemorations. Much of it is happening in isolation in the UK, despite the best efforts of the Centenary Partnership. At least with the Europeana 1914-1918 website many of the museum and library collections are together online with stories from the public.

Image credits: Dr Stephen Bull.

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Letter to an Unknown Soldier: A Unique, Contemporary Form of Community Collection

If you had the chance to write to a soldier serving in World War One, what would you say, considering all your own experience of life and death post 1914 to hand? 

As more and more events and exhibitions are being organised across the UK and beyond, commemoration for the First World War centenary is having to get creative! One of the most exciting WW1 projects to emerge in recent weeks is LETTER TO AN UNKNOWN SOLDIER. Created by Neil Bartlett and Kate Pullinger and commissioned by 14-18 NOW WW1 Centenary Art Commissions, LETTER TO AN UNKNOWN SOLDIER is a new kind of war memorial and indeed community collection: one made only of words.

The inspiration for the project is the Charles Jagger war memorial on Platform One of Paddington Station, which features a statue of an ordinary soldier in battle dress, reading a letter. The initiative invites everyone to contribute to this collaborative war memorial by writing that letter. From 28 June, throughout the 37 days leading up to the declaration of war on 4 August, the letters received will be published on the website to create a completely different kind of war memorial, one created by everyone. LETTER TO AN UNKNOWN SOLDIER will create a snapshot of how twenty-first century Britain views the First World War, one hundred years on. It will be added to the British Library online archive at the end of the project, and kept in perpetuity for generations to come.


The Charles Jagger statue at Paddington Station © Dom Agius

Writers from England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland have already pledged to write letters to the soldier. These include writers as distinguished and different as Alan Hollinghurst, Andrew Motion, Daljit Nagra, Esther Freud, Glenn Patterson, Kamila Shamsie, A L Kennedy, Malorie Blackman, Owen Sheers and Sheila Hancock. Our recently awarded Cameron Mackintosh Visiting Professor of Contemporary Theatre, Stephen Fry, offered this beautifully moving letter:

Beloved brother,

Enough time has passed now for us to think only one thought: that we will never see you again. The last I heard you were cheerful and funny, as ever. Remember when I told you that I was going to declare myself a conscientious objector? I saw a look in your eye. “My brother, a coward?” It nearly killed me. I would give anything to be in your place, a hero respected and at peace — and not just because of the insults, beatings and stones hurled at me from bus conductors, shopkeepers and children in the streets. Every night Ma and Pa sob as they try to swallow their food. I eat in another room. They cannot look at me. I try not to feel sorry for myself, but I do believe it is wrong to kill. I made my decision, you made yours. For eternity your image will stand for unquestioning courage. I will die proud of you and ashamed of myself. And that is in spite of me being right.

To be part of this extraordinary movement and contribute to this fast-expanding, unique and contemporary type of community collection visit: or send a letter by Royal Mail to LETTER TO AN UNKNOWN SOLDIER, PO Box 73102, London EC1P 1TY. Additionally, follow the project’s activities on Twitter and Facebook.

Artists Bob and Roberta Smith have designed a special envelope for the project.

Artists Bob and Roberta Smith have designed a special envelope for the project.

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