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Crowdsourcing WWI

[ 10 ] April 23, 2014 |

This is an interesting project:

One hundred years after the beginning of World War I, the British National Archive has launched an ambitious project to sift through and classify its vast trove of records from that world-spanning conflict.

It’s asking everyday people to help. Operation War Diary is a collaboration between the Archive, the Imperial War Museum and crowdsourcing Website Zooniverse. The effort aims to mobilize an army of amateur historians….

The problem is, there are far too many documents for War Museum agents or other physical visitors to the Archive to have any realistic chance of doing useful curating. Even after the Archive digitized the Great War collection, the Museum still needed help.

Lintott and Smith’s Op War Diary connects the vast war archive to Zooniverse’s legions of armchair researchers. Sitting at their laptops, Zooniverse users can read a few random WO/95s after work or on the weekend.

They add a bit of metadata specifying what kind of information is in the old documents—names, dates and places. Those data tags make it much, much easier for

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authors, academics and lay readers to find the war diaries they actually want to read.

This is just the beginning of the process; once reviewed, there’s a process for vetting competing or contradictory tags. Should help make the archive considerably more useful for scholars.

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Comments (10)

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  1. Martin Wisse says:

    There is actually an European wide project doing this as well. In the Netherlands (neutral but not unaffected by the war) we’ve had the first collection day last month. People could bring in their memorabilia, get it evaluated by experts, then photographed and digitised.

  2. jkay says:

    Sadly it’s too late for their Tory Official propaganda glorifying war, when it was SO radically screwed up the WHOLE world but Japan, whom had it easy at sea, went antiwar.

    The reality was even our Republicans and their Tories turned antiwar,

    • ajay says:

      it was SO radically screwed up the WHOLE world but Japan, whom had it easy at sea, went antiwar.

      This is not really true, though. Or at least not reflected in any marked avoidance of war as a tool of foreign policy after 1918 compared with before 1914. The Russian civil war (and intervention), the third Afghan war, the Irish civil war, the Greek-Turkish War, the Hungarian-Romanian War (which I’d never heard of before I looked it up), the Polish-Soviet war… these were all wars that involved Great War combatants on one or both sides and they all started within twelve months of the end of the Great War.

  3. Tristan says:

    Didn’t they crowdsource it the first time

  4. Karen says:

    This will be interesting.

    Also, somehow connected to WWI, today is the 450th anniversary of the birth of William Shakespeare. (Well, the generally accepted date. No one is really certain.)

  5. Phalamir says:

    The PRO (I will call it the National Archive when Hell freezes over) did something similar with old fin de siecle census records. They asked people researching old family records to please transcribe a bit of the census records. They ended up having what seemed like 3/4 of the geezerdom of the Isles descend upon them and start tippy-typing like mad – often not even doing research, just going in and transcribing.

  6. Linnaeus says:

    Hm. I’m basically doing the same thing for a friend of mine who is writing a biography – going through all of the primary source material she’s collected so far and “tagging” it.

  7. Keaaukane says:

    I’m looking forward to 2017 when the French are going to release the records from their mutinies. It makes life worth clinging to.

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