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 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  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 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 And do make and add your own recordings!

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Using online resources

Running a Community Collection usually means that material is collected in digital form to be use in some way. The material may form part of an archive, be used for research, be turned into educational material or much more. To mark the Remembrance season, this page lists some examples of how material that we have collected through our First World War projects is being used. Some examples of related resources are also included. Explore the links and get inspired to do something with digital material today.

Online archives

Explore the archives or share your own material.

  • Great War Archive (
    Our first community collection (closed for new additions). An online archive with material contributed by members of the public. Part of First World War Poetry Digital Archive ( which contains material by and about the war poets, including manuscripts, letters, pictures and more.
  • Europeana 1914-1918 (
    A very large international online archive containing stories and objects shared by the public, material from archives and libraries and links to additional resources.
  • Oxford at War (
    A new and growing collection of material related to Oxford during the period of the First World War.

Look for information about someone

If you are sharing a personal or family story through a community collection, you may also be interested in seeing what information about that person already exists online. You may also be able to  add your additional information to expand what is already available.

  • Commonwealth War Graves Commission (
    Find war dead. Search by name, date, regiment and more. Find information about person, their service number and where they are buried.  Sometimes additional information is available.
    – Enter information (only one term is needed) and press ‘Search’
    – Explore the result. You can sort the table by clicking on, for example, ‘Date of death’ or ‘Regiment/service’.
    – Click on the name to see more details.
  • Lives of the First World War (
    Find people who were involved in the war, add more information.
    – Type in name and service no (if known. Can be found through Commonwealth War Graves Commission for those who died)
    – See what is available (more information about how to use the site, add material and more can be found on the site)
  • Oxford Roll of Services (
    Listing all University members who served.
  • Wikipedia
    A lot of information about people, places and events. See, for example:
    – An image gallery of noteworthy people from Southern England who fought in World War I. Use the mouse wheel to move through the gallery. Clicking on some images will show a larger version.
     – A list of noteworthy people, born in Oxfordshire or adjacent counties, who took part in World War I but for whom there doesn’t seem to be a (freely reusable) photograph. Click the links on the right to read Wikipedia biographies of each solider. If you know of a photograph of any of these people, please email

Contribute to research

Having large archives of material is very useful for researchers and others interested in a topic. The material can be made more easily accessible, however, with the help of human input. A number of projects ask people to, for example, transcribe hand-written documents to make it easier to find relevant passages and identify key information. Examples include:

  • Europeana Transcribe:
    View images from the Europeana archive and type in the text that you can see. Choose the language and type of document that you want to see.
  • Measuring the ANZACs:
    Transcribe first-hand accounts of New Zealanders from the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps circa World War I.
  • Operation War Diary
    Annotate and transcribe war diaries from the First World War

Educational resources

Primary resources can be a very powerful resource for learning and teaching. Here are some examples of online educational resources that draw on material from community collections

  • First World War Poetry Digital Archive (
    Tutorials, films and timelines to help you learn more about First World War poetry and related topics.
  • World War One Centenary: Continuations and beginnings (
    Short articles, audio and video recordings and an extensive Resource Library providing links to freely available, open resources from across the world.

Online exhibitions

Here are a few examples how material form an archive (Europeana 1914-1918) has been used to create an online exhibition.

Films and podcasts


  • Children of the Great War
    A unique split screen film installation focusing on 13 of the participants who shared their family history from The Great War. The installation toured galleries, museums, and community centres, after its premiere at BFI Southbank. Created by AgeExchange
  • “Meeting in No Man’s Land”
    Feature-length film created by AgeExchange as part of their project where German and British elders exchange family histories from The First World War.

Films from the period of the First World War

The European Film Gateway has digitised a large collection of films and newsreels from the period of the War. To see all the material, explore the EFG 1914 project site. Some examples:

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Illustrations in support of Public Engagement with Research Awards

Child wearing a WW1 cap, plays with a WW1 telephone

“Halo, aký príbeh mi rozpovieš?” [“Hi, what story can you tell me?”] Inclusion of family faces, and children especially, are key for the interest of the news broadcasters in the Europeana 1914-1918 roadshows, like this one at Univerzitná knižnica v Bratislave, Bratislava (2013) – 1.

The Oxford University team involved in Europeana 1914-1918 have entered the Vice Chancellor’s Public Engagement with Research Awards (projects), 2016. Click on each photograph to see illustrations of some of the impact of the outreach and engagement activities as part of the work to crowdsource First World War family history from local communities and online, (using the principles of “The Oxford Community Collection Model“): Continue reading

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Crowdsourcing: the essentials

This post was written by Liz Masterman for the ‘News from Academic IT” blog and kindly cross-posted here.

The term ‘crowdsourcing’ crops up almost daily in the media, but it’s probably a fair guess that many people have only a general idea about how it works. In this article we look briefly at some of the characteristics of crowdsourcing initiatives, illustrated by four current and past projects conducted at the University:

Galaxy Zoo

The first stage of classification in Galaxy Zoo

Zooniverse is a platform that supports a number of crowdsourcing projects led by Oxford researchers. The original project, Galaxy Zoo, invited the public to help classify over a million galaxies. Current projects include Penguin Watch and Shakespeare’s World.

The Medieval Texts Translation Project is a by-product of Fiona Whelan’s doctoral research. It brings together scholars, academics, students and amateurs to translate medieval texts in order to make them more accessible to both the academic community and the general public.

Art UK (previously Your Paintings) is a collaboration between the Public Catalogue Foundation and the BBC to tag digital copies of paintings in public collections around the UK. Dr Kathryn Eccles of the OII has been researching the ‘virtual volunteers’, or ‘taggers’, taking part in the project to explore their motivation and find out what impact participation has had on them.

The Great War Archive ran a campaign to build an online collection of family memorabilia to accompany an archive of digitised manuscripts by major poets of the First World War. Contributions were collected both electronically, with members of the public uploading images to the website themselves and face-to-face, through ‘roadshows’ to which people brought their artefacts to be photographed or scanned by the project team.

Which comes first: the crowd or the source?

It’s possible to distinguish two main approaches to crowdsourcing, which differ from each other in their starting-points: content and crowd.

1. Content as the starting-point
This approach covers ‘a diverse range of activities and projects involving the public doing something to, or with, content’ (Dunn and Hedges 2014). The output from such activities can be some form of improvement to the content (e.g. Medieval Texts, Art UK) or, when the crowd is participating in research, a body of research data (e.g. Zooniverse).

Percy Matthews sketch

Sketch by Percy Matthews contributed to the Great War Archive by his grandson

2. The crowd as the starting-point
In this approach the public is asked ‘to help contribute to shared goals’ (Ridge, 2014): for example, by contributing artefacts to a collection, or by recording actions or behaviours. Once again, these goals can be either content (a collection of artefacts: e.g. Great War Archive) or research data (e.g. the RSPB’s annual Big Garden Birdwatch).

These two models are, of course, a simplification, and a number of variations can easily be identified. For example, digital images of memorabilia contributed by the crowd to the Great War Archive may serve as valuable sources for historians of the period.

All projects great and small…

One of the most striking characteristics of these crowdsourcing projects is their difference in scale. Galaxy Zoo attracted hundreds of thousands of contributors from across the world, yet Medieval Texts Translation achieved striking success with just a handful of contributors. Furthermore, technology (and the funding for it!) need not be a barrier: while Zooniverse and the Great War Archive run on purpose-built platforms, Fiona Whelan used an assemblage of free and open-source tools for her translation project: Google Docs, WordPress and Titanpad (a collaborative writing app), together with social media (Facebook and Twitter) to reach her community of volunteers.

Zooniverse projects

A selection of projects on the Zooniverse platform

Blazing the trail

Two projects in particular have eased the way for other organisations and individuals to follow in their footsteps.

With funding from Google, Zooniverse has developed a platform on which crowdsourcing sites can be set up very quickly and at no cost. It is currently hosting 10 live projects.

A key legacy of The Great War Archive is the Oxford Community Collections Model and an accompanying service, RunCoCo, which helps those who wish to build digital collections using a combination of online crowdsourcing and targeted face-to-face interaction. The model has been used with a wide range of subsequent projects, both large and small, including Europeana 1914-18, Europeana 1989, Great Famine Voices, the Woruldhord collection of teaching materials for Old English and the Lower Umpqua Community Historical Archive.

The role of the crowd: collaboration and consensus

Medieval Texts poem

Extract from a poem in the Medieval Texts Translation Project

It can be tempting to focus on the eye-catching images and arresting texts that abound on crowdsourcing sites: colonies of comical-looking penguins, a soldier’s helmet pierced with shrapnel, a landscape so vivid one could step right into it, or the tale of the witch with her cow-sucking bag. But in many ways the real stars of the show are the members of the public who contribute their time, effort, ideas and artefacts. Their role vis-à-vis the research community is an active one: they are considered members of that community: ‘citizen scientists’, even though they may have few or no academic qualifications themselves.

Scientific decisions are often made on the basis of consensus. In Galaxy Zoo each galaxy is viewed by 40 volunteers and the final classification is determined on the basis of the majority judgement. The Medieval Texts Translation Project used a collaborative writing tool which supported discussion of, for example, vocabulary and interpretation. This enabled participants to engage with the project in different ways according to their preference; some would translate a whole poem from scratch, while others preferred to edit and comment on the translations already made.

Art UK

From the ‘Tagger’ page on Art UK

Both Fiona (from interacting with her participants) and Kathryn (through her research) emphasise the importance of building a sense of community among the volunteers in a project and, crucially, a sense of ownership in the collective work and of making a positive contribution to current and future scholarship. In Galaxy Zoo, this was taken to its logical conclusion in naming volunteers as co-authors of a research paper reporting the discovery of a new astrophysical object. (Interestingly, this discovery provides a strong argument against replacing human crowds with computers, even though some efforts have been made in that direction, such as the automated tagging of artworks.)

Even where participation doesn’t lead to scientific discovery, participants in crowdsourcing projects can derive great personal satisfaction from the experience. Contributors to the Europeana 1914-18 collection filmed for Irish TV news spoke of the gratification of being able to share a family treasure and the story associated with it with the world. In her research with the Art UK taggers, Kathryn found that participation increased their engagement with museums and galleries and a way to see paintings from galleries which they were unable to visit for themselves. Not only did they also grow in confidence in looking at art, they also found that their use of language improved overall. And for some, tagging fulfilled a therapeutic function, providing a welcome distraction from difficult personal situations. Virtual volunteering therefore, can open up possibilities for ‘anywhere, anytime’ volunteering, and with it a sense of purpose and personal value.

Ridge, M. (2014). Crowdsourcing our Cultural Heritage. London: Routledge.
Dunn, S. & Hedges, M. (2012). Crowd-Sourcing Scoping Study: Engaging the Crowd with Humanities Research. Arts & Humanities Research Council.

This article has been compiled from notes made at ‘Crowdsourcing for Impact’, a forum held on 4 March 2016 at IT Services as part of Academic IT’s annual Engage programme. The speakers were Dr Grant Miller (Zooniverse), Kate Lindsay (Great War Archive) and Dr Kathryn Eccles (Art UK research project). The convenor was Dr Ylva Berglund Prytz, who also presented on behalf of Dr Fiona Whelan. All interpretations and errors are mine.

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Suggested reading

Those interested in community collections, First World War material or history research may want to look at this article by our colleague and friend Dr. Stephen Bull. As the first in a series of three articles on crowdsourcing, Stephen discusses user-generated content (UCG) as ‘new history’.  Some nice examples from the work we have been doing for the last few years – crowdsourcing First World War material.

There is a genuine case to be made that, in the digital age, ‘User Generated Content’ (UGC) is ‘new history’. Its beauty is twofold: much of it has never been shared outside of a family or personal context, and now, being seen publicly for the first time, it can be marshalled into categories and mined for research.

Bull, Stephen (2016): Europeana 1914-1918: Showcasing Crowdsourcing and User Generated Content as The ‘New’ History

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IT Innovation

Webbanner120x400pixelsMany organisations and companies are aware that their members can have creative solutions to challenges and problems that the organisation is facing, but that they may find it difficult to get these raised and funded. As of last year, the University of Oxford is running a crowdsourcing scheme to encourage its members to offer ideas for small start-up digital projects that will bring benefit to the University.

A couple of times each year, the scheme launches a challenge and invites students and staff to share their ideas related to a particular theme (an open category is also included to allow for good ideas not matching the current theme).

A dedicated platform has been set up to allow staff and students to post their ideas, comment on and discuss them, and form teams for collaboration. The aim of this is to encourage open discussion, emerge ideas from across the University, and inspire collaborations between otherwise dispersed teams or units. Submitted ideas are evaluated by the IT Innovation Panel which consists of senior members from all divisions of the University. A shortlist is drawn up, and shortlisted ideas are invited to submit a project proposal where they show how their idea could be implemented as a project. The proposals are presented to the Panel which then decides which ones to fund.

Over its first year, the scheme has funded 25 innovative projects led by staff or students. The projects range from small projects involving one student working on something over the summer, to projects involving a team of participants from several departments working together for up to a year.

The Oxford IT Innovation Challenges forms part of the University’s IT Capital Plan and is administered by staff from IT Services (including RunCoCo).

More information:

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