Imaging Egypt and Palestine in the first World War

Commemorating the centenary of the First World War, and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, a team from Cardiff University are collecting digital versions of photographs and memorabilia created or purchased by service personnel, especially taken in Egypt and Palestine. Roadshows, held at locations throughout England and Wales are giving descendants an opportunity to recount the lives of these service personnel, now long past, and to reveal a more personal side to the conflicts.

Project Team

Cardiff Team
Steve Mills, Co-Principal Investigator
Paul Nicholson, Co-Principal Investigator
Volunteer Team
Content Donors

CoDA Team
Michael Ashley, Data Architect
Kelley Shanahan, Web Designer, Engineer

Sponsors

VAL-Views-of-an-Antique-Land_CODA_2016_heritage-lottery-logo      VAL-Views-of-an-Antique-Land_CODA_2016_cardiff-logo

Paul Nicholson, Egyptologist, Professor of Archaeology at Cardiff University, points out that the histories of Britain and Egypt have long been intertwined. However, the place of Egypt during the First World War is often overlooked because of the focus on the Western Front.”

His colleague and collaborator, Steve Mills, sees this project as a critical contribution to understanding WWI. “Beyond the Western Front there was another First World War, a war of movement, of cavalry operations and one which was fought in the heat of the deserts and in dusty towns in the Middle East.”

Working in collaboration with the Center for Digital Archaeology (CoDA), the information, digital media and personal accounts are being transformed into an interactive site and archive, powered by mukurtu.net. The archive will allow the public to discuss, contribute, share and research information about Egypt and Palestine in the First World War.

“Up until now access to images relating to this theatre of conflict have been limited and information on how the region was seen by those who visited it, and who lived there, has often seemed inaccessible,” says Nicholson.

The CoDA team built a custom application for aiding the collection process from donors, streamlining the process so that volunteers can spend more time visiting, listening and documenting the often remarkable stories and personal accounts, to build a richer picture of the lives of the service personnel, and the places they visited.

Jennifer Stewart, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Wales said “I am delighted that we are able to support Cardiff University to provide opportunities for people to broaden their understanding of the conflict and how it has shaped our modern world”

The site is under development and will go live in May 2016.

The Challenge

Thousands of images will be taken of objects contributed by hundreds of donors in multiple locations, including virtual contributions through websites. The team needed a streamlined, archival grade database tool to cope with the huge amount of media and data – personal information, release forms, multiple images per object, multiple objects –  in preparation for semi-automated uploads to the publicly accessible website.

The Solution

We built a database application to facilitate the collection process, streamlining annotation, data cleanup, and the creation of the digital heritage records. We developed an easy-to-follow publishing workflow that transforms the selected images into high-resolution JPEG representations for the website for public enjoyment, with dramatically smaller file sizes, while linking to the archival quality originals for archival safekeeping.

We are pleased that the Heritage Lottery Fund has chosen to support this project which will make this other First World War more widely known, especially to the descendants of those who served in Egypt and Palestine.

Dr. Steve Mills

School of History, Archaeology and Religion, Cardiff University

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