Wikipedia:WikiProject Military history/News/April 2012/Op-ed

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Commemorating World War I

By The Land
Recruiting poster, 1915

In June, Wikimedia UK, working with JISC, will hold what we believe to be the first Military History editathon, on the subject of World War I. I would like to share with you the context for this event, and extend an invitation.

In the summer of 2014, the world will begin a four-year-long commemoration of the First World War. This will not only be a time of rememberance. It will also be a time of learning. While the War is now finally slipping from living memory, there can be no doubt that the centenary will be the focus of massive efforts in education, in the media, and in the cultural sector. Doubtless there will be tens - probably hundreds - of thousands of school projects, press articles, blog posts, and family history initiatives. Many of those things will start on Wikipedia. Given the importance of the First World War in history, setting in chain as it did so many of the events of the 20th century, we should try to make sure Wikipedia's coverage of it is as good as possible.

In many ways, the subjects are challenging. World War I is often understood in terms of competing national narratives. Ask a Briton what happened in the Great War and you will hear about the Somme. Ask a Frenchman or woman and they will probably say Verdun. An Australian or New Zealander, Gallipolli. What's more, the history of the war - particularly in the English language - can be hotly contested between those who see it as senseless slaughter, and those who see it as a bloody but vital sacrifice. However, these challenges are also opportunities. We know Wikipedia can be very good at handling complex, disputed subjects. We know that with our global editorship, we have the chance to transcend national differences.

The centenary of World War I is also a huge opportunity for us to reach out to the cultural and academic sector. Every museum in the UK with any interest in military history seems to be planning what they are doing for the Centenary, and I am sure the same is true in many other countries. What is more, funding bodies and umbrella organisations are also interested. In the UK, JISC is running a programme to enhance the "open educational resources" available to the academic sector. Europeana are running roadshows across Europe to digitise content from families' attics and mantelpieces, and loading it onto Wikimedia Commons. This opportunity is why Wikimedia UK is making the commemoration of World War I a priority in its outreach work.

So I'm pleased to announce our first World War I editathon, which will take place at the British Library in London on 16 June. The aim of the event is to bring active Wikipedians-whether experienced military history editors, or simply inspired by the subject-together with experts from academia, with the joint aim of improving Wikipedia's coverage of the War. If you'd like to come along, please do sign up. Wikimedia UK will be able to pay travel expenses from within the UK, and there will be ways to participate virtually from further afield.

I hope this will be the first of many World War I related outreach events, and that it will not only kick off activity in Britain, but be a step forward for military history-related outreach work worldwide. Please do come along!

The Land is an administrator on the English Wikipedia and a board member of Wikimedia UK.
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Hear, hear! I'd like to contribute an illustration - suggestions for appropriate topics are welcome. Doug (talk) 04:37, 15 May 2012 (UTC)