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Lest We Forget: A Nationwide Initiative to Preserve Our Memories of the Great War (1914-1918)

 

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.

Thanks to the success of an enormously popular crowdfunding campaign, in October 2017 the LWF team launched a unique, large-scale digitisation project with a view to collect and make publicly available, in digital form, memorabilia and personal accounts of war-time experience. Today, the Lest We Forget 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. In November 2018, as events and projects are organised across the country to commemorate the centenary of the end of the war, the Lest We Forget archive will be made available to everyone through a large, online database. The database and its contents will be freely available (via the LWF website and via Europeana 1914-1918) bringing these stories and experiences from the past to researchers and educators today. Read more.

 

 

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About

Launched in October 2017, following the success of an enormously popular crowdfunding campaign, Lest We Forget (LWF) is an Oxford Univeristy led project that aims to capture the memories and stories of the Great War before they are lost to history. From June 2017, the Lest We Forget team is running a unique, large-scale digitisation project that will collect and make publically available, in digital form, memorabilia and personal accounts of war-time experience. As part of this initiative, the LWF team helps local communities across the UK to organise and run their own Digital Collection Days in order to gather personal stories of World War One told through photographs, diaries, letters and mementos, and the memories and oral histories passed down through families.

 

"Few people in Britain were unaffected by the War", says project leader Dr Stuart Lee, who is Deputy Chief Information Officer for IT Services at Oxford University, member of the Faculty of English, and member of Merton College:

Millions served in the conflict or transformed their lives to contribute to the war effort; most who survived lost loved ones, family and friends. Yet, the sacrifice made by these men and women on a daily basis increasingly slips from living memory. Safeguarding the memory of World War One is of critical importance to both honouring the sacrifice made by those who upended their lives or laid them down during the conflict and to the preservation of our national identity. Through our digitisation projects here at Oxford, we will keep the memory of the Great War alive so that we may never forget.

In November 2018, to complement projects and events nationwide commemorating the centenary of the end of the war, these stories will be made available to the public through a large, free-to-use online database. The database and its contents will be freely accessible, opening these stories and experiences from the past to researchers and educators today.

For more information, click here.

Donate

Lest We Forget is entirely funded through donations by individuals and charities. If you wish to help support this project please make your donation through the University of Oxford’s ‘Just Giving’ site or contact us directly via ww1collections@it.ox.ac.uk.

For every:

£25 we can create, print, and mail out a training pack, providing step-by-step instructions and advice on how to run a local community Digital Collection Day;

£150 we can gift a portable digitisation studio to a community group or school;

£200 we can buy and loan a high-speed flat-bed scanner;

£300 we can buy and loan a digital camera;

£400 we can buy and loan a laptop to assist with cataloguing and image processing;

£1,500 we can create a complete off-the-shelf digitisation kit (2 lightboxes, 2 background material, snake weights, 2 umbrella lights, 2 digital cameras, and 1 flatbed scanner, plus delivery) OR run a training day in Oxford for 10-15 people who will then have the skills necessary to run their own Digital Collection Day;

£2,500 we can run a training day elsewhere in the country training 10-15 digital champions and run a collection day in the region.

We are extremely thankful to all our supporters. Your donations make the project possible.

Digital Collection Days

 

A ‘Digital Collection Day’ is an event where members of the public are invited to bring their First World War stories and memorabilia to a nearby community area - such as a village hall, community centre, school or library - where trained volunteers are on hand to record stories and digitise any objects. Those who participate in a LWF Digital Collection Day might choose to share their photographs, diaries, letters, mementos or personal memories from the time of the war. Whilst any contribution is appreciated, we also welcome those who wish to come simply to listen and learn. After a Digital Collection Day, any stories or objects which are recorded are uploaded to the Lest We Forget archive which, from October of 2018, will be freely available on the Lest We Forget website.

Are YOU willing to organise a Digital Collection Day?

By organising or volunteering at a Digital Collection Day, you can help: 
  • create a safe and interested environment in which community members, particularly those belonging to an older generation, have the opportunity to share their stories;
  • bring together members of community, young and old, to promote understanding through conversation and increase historical awareness;
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  • preserve important heritage under threat of disappearing;
  • encourage online contributions to the Lest We Forget project; 
  • encourage re-use of the collected material for educational or research purposes;
  • promote a local organisation and/or venue.

What happens at a Digital Collection Day?

Each event will be unique, since the people who attend will bring their individual, personal stories and objects. Generally, however, a Digital Collection Day is a large-scale, public one-day event. The normal workflow at a Digtial Collection Day is: 
  1. Visitor arrives and is introduced to the process for contributing;
  2. Visitor speaks to an interviewer who records the story and information about any objects that have been brought. The interviewer may offer information about the objects;
  3. The objects are digitised (photographed or scanned) and then returned to the visitor;
  4. The story, object information and digital images are uploaded to the Lest We Forget website.

What do I need to hold a Digital Collection Day?

Anyone can run a Digital Collection Day, but we need your help! With a venue, some equipment and a handful of hardworking team members, it won't be difficult to get the ball rolling. Remember, the LWF project staff will be happy to help you with any questions and/or difficulties so keep in touch along the way. For now, download this document to help you start planning your Digital Collection Event.
 

Available support

If you are interested in holding a Digital Collection Day, feel free to contact ww1collections@it.ox.ac.uk. We provide support and training for the Lest We Forget project and are happy to answer questions, offer advice and support, and point you to further documentation and guides. The Lest We Forget project can promote Digital Collection Days and events which use the Lest We Forget site to add to the growing, multi-national collection of First World War memorabilia and stories. For information on any upcoming Digital Collection Days, click here.

We are currently making some improvements to our submission platform, but we expect to have it up and running very soon... so watch this space!

Remembrance Page

As part of the original fund-raising campaign for Lest We Forget, donors were offered the chance to create a digital plaque in remembrance of someone from the 1914-1918 generation. This could be a family member, or someone they had heard of who had inspired them. To visit the Remembrance Page, click here.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is ‘Lest We Forget’?

‘Lest We Forget’ is a project that aims to empower local organisations (schools, local history groups, community centres) to run Digital Collection Days. The idea is that at such a day members of the community will bring in material they own related to the First World War for it to be digitised (a digital photo is taken). The digitised material will then be uploaded to a website for everyone else to see and share. We want this to be a national effort leading up to the 100th anniversary of the Armistice in 2018 when we will launch the collection.

What help will you give me if I want to run a Digital Collection Day?

On this site you can download a training pack that gives you a complete guide to running your own Digital Collection Day. You can also download a variety of forms, posters, images and templates to use on the day. The training pack offers precise instructions relating to what type of venue you should try to use (village hall, school library, etc), how many people you might need, what their roles and responsibilities would be, and how to digitize the material and upload it to our site. If you are at all interested in running such an event then contact us at ww1collections@it.ox.ac.ukTo download the training pack and posters click here and scroll down to the section entitled 'What do I need to hold a Digital Collection Day?'.

Will you be giving any other training?

Yes. We are planning to run a training day here at Oxford in early 2018 for anyone wishing to run a digital collection day. If you are interested please contact us at ww1collections@it.ox.ac.uk

What happens to the material when it is uploaded?

We will store all the material on our systems and the release it as a searchable database in November 2018. In addition we will also add all the material to the large European research database called Europeana 1914-1918. Everything we collect will be freely available world-wide for anyone to reuse.

Do you keep any of the objects?

No. We are purely interested in collecting digital photographs of the objects any accompanying stories. We do not retain the physical item but are happy to advise on appropriate museums to contact.

Why are you doing this?

Because every day the objects (letters, photos, memoirs, diaries, souvenirs, etc) of the men, women, and children who were part of the 1914-1918 generation are being lost. This project not only attempts to save these items digitally but also the stories attached to them – why were these kept by the family?

Can I donate money to help the project?

Yes! This is all funded by public donations so to help us further please give whatever you can at the University of Oxford’s ‘Just Giving’ site.

I have an item from WW1 but do not wish to run a Digital Collection Day. What can I do?

First, keep an eye on this website as we will alert you to events around the country that we know of. Alternatively you can also submit the item yourself online. We will be posting details on how to do this in due course. 

Contact

Send all enquiries to ww1collections@it.ox.ac.uk and we will try to get back to you as soon as we can.

Alternatively, visit our facebook or twitter pages for latest news and instant messaging facilities. 

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