Wake up America! Can US museums use the Web to crowdsource user-generated content for the 2017-18 anniversaries using the new approaches piloted by the University of Oxford and made reality by Europeana?

Professional Forum
Alun Edwards, University of Oxford, UK, Bill Brewster, First Division Museum, USA, Bob Beatty, American Association for State and Local History, USA, Matt Naylor, National World War I Museum, USA

To discuss practical issues around crowdsourcing WW1 stories in the US this Forum is convened by: American Association for State and Local History; Europeana 1914-1918; First Division Museums (FDM); National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial; and the University of Oxford.

Just in time for the centenary of the First World War European national museums and local libraries ran crowdsourcing campaigns to gather family stories for the Europeana 1914-1918 website. Alongside professionally curated digital content (including 650 hours of newly digitised film), more than 13,000 stories (150,000+ digital objects) have been added so far in campaigns which are run by local teams. The user-generated content is gathered using "the Oxford Community Collection Model". This pan-European material is shared online so it can be re-used freely - for fun, for research or teaching, or for exhibitions.

Can US museums use the Web to crowdsource WW1 stories in time for the 2017-18 anniversaries using the new approaches piloted by the University of Oxford and made reality by Europeana? Their websites are Open Source so could be adapted for an American audience. A possible collection platform is nearly ready-to-go online!

As the primary storytellers from WW1 have died off it is important "for the survivors, us, to sustain their story... to keep it a vivid narrative that lives and breathes rather than something desiccated, rapidly receding into the past with ever-diminishing power to stir us..." (Rick Atkinson 2011). Professional curators may resist the desire to see more public involvement in the process even as our museum educators demand such openings and engagement. Knowledge of artefacts of this period is enlightened by the story of their use. The historical provenance is where the excitement and pathos lie. All the pristine and rare unattributed uniforms in our museums are not worth one torn and bloody rag. This is where engagement begins and should continue.

Bibliography:
Professional Forum: American Association for State and Local History; Europeana 1914-1918; The First Division Museums (FDM); The National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial; RunCoCo: How to run a community collection online (University of Oxford);
References: