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First World War Poetry Digital Archive – Engaging New Audiences

Trench scene - Wikipedia Commons 

The First World War Poetry Digital Archive at Oxford University recently held a two day workshop for teachers and lecturers to  help support the creation of resources to enhance teaching and the student experience of the poetry archive.

One of the most interesting outcomes of the workshop was the immense popularity of the Great War Archive (GWA), a Flickr community for members of the public to submit images relating to the First World War.  Participants drew heavily on this broad public archive of images and personal memorabillia, all directly related to the First World War.

The manuscripts, letters and texts of the poets work was often complimented with images from the GWA which allowed the participants to explore wide thematic and subject areas, including propaganda; childrens’ literature; ‘afterwards’; and women and war. All materials were then added to the education section of the archive.

While the poetic manuscripts and correspondnce is clearly at the heart of the project, and represents one of the most comprehensive archives of first world war poetry anywhere, the GWA engages the formal poetry archive in a much wider discussion with the first world war in general, and in the experiences of families and communities who were directly, or indirectly effected by it.


Institutions are increasingly under pressure to reach out to the wider community, and are finding it an ever increasing part of their remit and conditions of funding to prevent the exclusion of certain groups. 

It will be very interesting in the next few years to see how heritage institutions such as libraries, museums and archives engage in this dialogue, and to see how JISC and similarly funded projects find innovative ways to address wider participation. 

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