German alliance sees Oxford University's Great War Archive embark on a European pilgrimage

By Richard Moss | 17 December 2010
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  • Archived article
a photograph of a shattered landscape and trenches
The human stories from Britain and Germany behind the desolation of the First World War will now be told thanks to the Great War Archive
Oxford University is taking its groundbreaking Great War Archive into Europe after signing an agreement with the German National Library and Europe’s digital archive Europeana to digitise more family papers and memorabilia from the First World War.

The collaboration will bring German soldiers’ stories online alongside their British counterparts in a European 1914-18 archive.

Oxford University began the initiative when it asked people across Britain to bring family letters, photographs and keepsakes from the War to be digitised. The success of the idea, which became the Great War Archive, has encourage European partners to get on board.

Now a series of road shows in libraries around Germany will invite people to bring documents and artefacts from family members involved in the First World War to be digitised by mobile scanning units

A website will allow people to submit material online and all the material will be available through Europeana, where it will add a new perspective to collections of First World War material from institutions across Europe. 

“Working together with the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek and their partners in Germany to extend this initiative will give it new resonance,” said Stuart Lee, an Oxford University academic and Director of the Great War Archive. “The Centenary in 2014 of the first year of the war will prompt many people to discover more about it and find out about family members involved.”

Effectively a people’s history of the conflict, the addition of a German perspective is designed to bring online visitors even closer to those who witnessed it first hand through family souvenirs and the stories that have been handed down through the generations.

“We are proud to be part of this alliance,” said Dr Elisabeth Niggemann, the German National Librarian. “These artefacts and their stories have survived and we must record them while they are still part of family memory.

"Little of this material will ever have been on public display, or been made available to historians. What the 1914-18 War demonstrates, especially at the personal level, is the futility of war, and the pity of it for the men and their families.”

Explore the Great War Archive at www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/ww1lit/ and Europeana at www.europeana.eu
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