WO95 - British Army War Diaries 1914-1922 @ TNA Kew Gardens
'The documents and other survivals of the past are dead to us until we ask them a question. - Benedetto Croce, 1917
Yesterday a really exciting opportunity arose to get involved in the largest digitisation project The National Archives (TNA) has ever undertaken. If you don’t enjoy history however I wouldn’t bother continuing on with this blog post…..
For those of you who do have some interest however, I’ll continue……
With the centenary of the (unofficial) start of WWI starting with the assassination of Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand in two days (28.06.2014) we’re just now getting to the start of a four year period of even more intense research from scholars and enthusiasts alike.
Digitisation is undoubtedly a huge part of this in modern times and is a mammoth task. For most collections and files, There is a sorting process that each individual sheet of information within has to go through before it’s made available as a digital copy to readers online. That’s why I’m really glad to be part of such a large and prestigious project because it really is a way to give back to institutions that we all use day to day, free of charge. Someone, somewhere has to take the time…. all of those days months and years, to provide us with the information that we often take for granted. Without the sorting process, the histories can’t be written because the original documents just aren’t accessible. Not to mention the fact that the whole point of an archive is to preserve documents for future generations to benefit from, so it makes much more sense to digitise these things in order to allow free use and discourage abuse.
So today myself and a peer went to the first meeting at the TNA and were introduced to the five members of staff we’d be working with as well as being given an overview of the process of document digitisation and the usual security checks. It was explained to us that there are over 800,000 boxes to be sorted and digitised. Each ‘box’ holds around 700 pages and is up to around 10cm in height, so you can see the issue that the TNA are faced with. For this, there are 40 volunteers plus TNA staff members. The documents all range from as early as July 1914 to July 1919 when on the anniversary of the assassination of ADFF the Treaty of Versailles was signed.
Of course there are some benefits to this task. Not only self satisfaction at giving back to the institution, the fact that it’ll look pretty decent on my CV and the different types of training we’ll receive in document handling and other archive techniques but also the TNA is set right next to the famous Botanical Gardens @ Kew which are (more or less give or take a few extras) free for the public to visit. There’ll be an upcoming post on that as I’ve been wanting to really test out my new camera and what better place than Kew? 🙂
Of course, I could go on and on about this for days but I’ll leave it here and update as and when the task begins!! In the mean time, here are a few images of the National Archives and the surrounding gardens at the entrance which, today, were bathed in warmth and sunlight.
The National Archives Kew Richmond Surrey TW9 4DU Kew Gardens Overground & Underground Stations