Appeal to help preserve World War One artefacts

LANCASTRIANS are being asked to help create an archive of World War One memorabilia.

They are being asked to take letters, photos, diaries and other items to a WW1 Family History Roadshow at the Museum of Lancashire, Preston.

Instead of festering in shoe boxes under the bed or deep inside the attic, historians want to save your personal memories of the war in our virtual archive

The Preston roadshow on Saturday, March 10 from 10am to 5.30pm, is one of the first in a series that is being rolled-out across 10 countries in Europe this year to create a unique pan-European account of WW1 that is available to everyone.

Europeana 1914-1918 brings together a partnership of libraries, museums, academic and cultural institutions, which in the UK includes the British Library, Oxford University, JISC, and Lancashire County Council.

The organisers want ordinary families to tell us about their keepsakes, who they belonged to and why they are so important to them. Historians and experts will be on hand to talk about the significance of the finds – while professional digitisers and cataloguers will upload them to the website.

As the centenary approaches, the plan is to preserve these precious documents for future generations. Digitisation saves them from being lost or thrown away – and it keeps them safe for use by schools, genealogists and cultural organisations.

While family mementos are being archived, visitors to the museum can join our costumed re-enactors in a military drill, kit inspection; Semaphore signalling, bandage winding, or experience life on the front line in the museum’s replica trench.

Stephen Bull, curator of military history and archaeology at the Museum of Lancashire, said: “Now is the time to find out about your family history and to dig out that photo of ‘Uncle Ted’ in uniform, or indeed, your grandparents as children during the war - because we are interested in both the home front experience and what the soldiers did.”

Stephen Miller, 27, of Hoghton, near Preston, uncovered a shoe box full of snaps of three of his great-grandfathers at his parents’ home. “I couldn’t believe it when my father presented me with this treasure trove of photos and medals belonging to my great-granddads,” he said. ”If I hadn’t asked him about our ancestors, I would never have found out that one of them received a medal for bravery.

“With the 100th anniversary coming up, I think we should find these artefacts and get them digitised. If we don’t, we will lose some of the last links we have with that period of our history.”

Jill Cousins, Europeana’s executive director, said: “Memorabilia and stories are kept by families for a while, but after a century their significance starts to fade. That’s why our online archive, which is collecting material from across Europe in a series of roadshows, is so important.

“The Preston event will give people the opportunity to share their memories, photos and diaries with future generations, while learning about the sacrifices their ancestors made.”

Those who are unable to attend the event can scan or digitally photograph their own material and upload it on the website