The purpose of the 2008 UK GWA was to explore the:
- effectiveness of crowdsourcing in building digitized collections;
- development of open-source collection software;
- models for running community collection activities that reach a range of audiences, including online communities, the elderly and less digitally literate;
- range and suitability of material that could be gathered for teaching and research;
- digital literacies in the public (via digitization and cataloguing);
- cost of this alternative digitization model.
As the GWA Collections expanded we wanted to explore if the model would be as effective in other countries with differing cultural attitudes to the War, and funded by Europeana we ran the initiative in Germany in 2011.
We have now moved to a devolved model, and our purpose is to ensure sustainability across a range of nations through training to run and embed collections within their own communities. In 2012, via the Europeana 1914-1918 programme, we are working with partners in Luxembourg, Ireland, Slovenia, Italy, Denmark, with further UK initiatives. This will expand to include further European partners in 2013 in the lead-up to the centenary of the War in 2014. We also wanted to evaluate whether the software developed would support community collections that gather content for different subject areas, taking the methodology beyond this milestone.
The impact of the Great War Community Collections is significant. In terms of submissions these now exceed 30,000 images. Items digitized include unpublished memoirs, letters, diaries, and photographs, never before seen by researchers and much of which was at risk of being lost forever (http://thegreatwararchive.blogspot.com/). In addition 4,383 items have been submitted to our Flickr Group (http://www.flickr.com/groups/greatwararchive/). Taking the model to Germany exceeded expectations with 25,000 items being collected in just 8 collection days and online, compared to 8,700 in the UK(1). The cost of community digitization, compared with traditional methods, fell from £40 to £3.50 per item.
Over 900 people have registered to contribute online to Europeana 1914-1918, digitizing their own material and contributing it via the collection website. 1200(2) people have brought items into our collection days at memory institutions where teams of staff and volunteers have digitized the material for them. Members of the public have learned more about what they have and are often guided through using a computer to catalogue their memories and stories around their material, thus digitally included in the initiative.
The original UK GWA is being used by researchers, teachers, students and family historians. We are frequently contacted by academics wishing to use the material in publications, by publishers and broadcasters, and by members of the public wishing to contact contributors (often lost relatives).
Using the TIDSR (http://microsites.oii.ox.ac.uk/tidsr/) and Google Analytics we have measured quantitative impact(3):
Oxford GWA site (http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/ww1lit/gwa):
- 726,061 visits with 1,858,746 page views (since 2008)
- Referrals – wikipedia.org (59,249 via entries on 41 Wikipedia pages), spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk (12,303), the BBC (4854), and edsitement.neh.gov (2448).
This implies the material is being used in a teaching context and also becoming an established recommended resource, as well as supplying information relevant to enhance and enrich existing Wikipedia. 26% of TLDs to the site are also from either ac.uk or .edu domains .
Europeana 1914-1918 site (www.europeana1914-1918.eu):
- 78,939 visits; 498,553 page views with a 29.18% return visit with an average time on site of 4-5 minutes (since March 2011)
- National origin = Germany, closely followed by the UK, France, the Netherlands, US, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Poland, and Italy.
Media impact is also significant. In the UK the GWA featured in the national press including The Times Higher Educational Supplement, Radio 4 and The Guardian, with feature stories on local radio and television. In Germany the project received over 300 media reports in 2011 (national and local).
Strategically the project led to the JISC commissioning Digitisation, Curation and Two-way Engagement (Chris Batt Consulting, 2009) and funding community collection initiatives through the Developing Community Content Programme. Oxford was funded to provide training under this programme. We ran 5 events, attended by 167 participants. For Europeana 1914-1918 65 individuals from 8 different countries attended two training events in the UK and Germany. For further UK initiatives we are working to develop local programmes, creating activities involving museums, schools, colleges, ex-service personnel, and care homes that feed into and continue on from the collection days.
At the heart of our model lies the RunCoCo software which we built ab initio, and open-sourced, allowing others to create their own community collection sites. It has been used to collect teaching materials on Anglo-Saxon England, community materials on the Iron Curtain, Welsh history, and is being used by Europeana 1914-1918. We are now looking to offer this as ‘Software as a Service’ under Oxford’s cloud.
We developed methodologies for online submissions and community collection days, creating training material, and have now run several workshops on set up, support, and running a collection day; dealing with the media and the public. All these materials are available at http://runcoco.oucs.ox.ac.uk.
For many of the memory institutions involved in Europeana 1914-1918 they are embarking on something completely different, no longer in complete control of what is being collected, catalogued and disseminated. Academically, inviting and supporting the European public in contributing personal history and politics on the War, is furthering a larger scale reappraisal of this historic event whilst fostering considerable knowledge exchange between the project and the contributors, on the War, on their history, and on digital and open literacy.
All material is catalogued using XML Dublin Core, and an archive copy is kept in Oxford on our Hierarchical File Server. The entire collection is migrating to Bodleian Libraries Databank System to promote long-term availability. Europeana collections are held on the Europeana servers but Oxford will also receive a complete copy. Further funding is also being sought to build the collection further across Europe as we approach the 2014 centenary of the War, empowering local centres to run their own initiatives sensitive to their nation’s cultural attitudes to this historic event.
(1) Original 2008 GWA plus Preston in March 2012.
(2) Including Luxembourg and Preston (March 2012). Some libraries ran their own days based on our guidelines we published online (e.g. Blackburn and the Orkney Islands and Amberg, Germany).
(3) Statistics obtained from Google Analytics and Open Site Explorer.