Air Waves Portrush : BBC World War One at Home
On Saturday 6th and Sunday 7th September, the Living Legacies team set off for Portrush. We had been invited to participate in one of the BBC's flagship 'World War One At Home' roadshows. The BBC held eight of these large-scale, flagship events across the UK, along with seventeen others. The flagship events were held in Wolverhampton, Woolwich, Sunderland, Dundee, Bristol, Rhyl, Nottingham and Portrush. The events were created so that, during this period of commemoration, members of the public could reflect upon the impacts and outcomes of WW1.
The site at Portrush housed a range of tents, groups and interactive stands. The Living Legacies team shared a tent with the Somme Association and the Royal British Legion. Castleton Lanterns were in the adjacent tent. We had brought along the mobile digitisation unit, provided by one of our partner organisations, CDDA (Centre for Data Digitisation and Analysis: http://www.qub.ac.uk/cdda/), so that members of the public could have their artefacts digitised if they wished. The scanners which CDDA own can take high-quality, high-resolution images of 2D items such as letters, photographs, maps and books. By doing this, images of the item can be shared across the internet with friends, family and other researchers. They can also be preserved indefinitely via an online archive or website.
In addition, Dr. Keith Lilley, Principal Investigator for the project and Reader in Historical Geography, brought alone some trench maps to show how the Western front was not fixed, but rather shifted as the war progressed. One of the ways which the Centre hopes to encourage public engagement with WW1 legacy is to challenge popularly held conceptions and to reveal the complex nature of life on the Western front, as well as at home. The maps generated plenty of discussions as members of the public viewed the trench structures of well-known battles, such as the Somme, Guillemont, etc.
Our museums expert, Fiona Byrne, brought along some specialist materials which are used to properly conserve historical items such as letters, medals and photographs. Part of Fiona's role as Historical Engagement Officer is not only to discuss the historical context and rarity of the items which the public bring along, but also to give advice on their conservation. Many of our visitors mentioned that they had objects at home which they hoped to pass onto relatives and Fiona was able to explain how to ensure the items did not degrade over time.
The Briefing Room was the focal point of the event, with a large tent being set up for experts to give talks and hold Q & A sessions with the public. On Sunday, Centre member Professor Richard Grayson delivered several expert lectures to interested members of the public.
The weekend was well-attended, with around 7,000 people being comfortably accommodated across the site. Several of the tents were aimed at younger people, with the Parading Square challenging youngsters to complete a mini assault course, under the watch of a drill Sergeant. In addition to this, there was a Morse Code tent with a Morse decoder, field telephones and communications equipment from the War. Imperial War Museums had partnered with the BBC and the AHRC (Art and Humanities Research Council) to host the events and IWM staff had a well-attended stand with an objects expert of their own.
We were delighted to attend the roadshow and extremely impressed by the level of public interest, across a range of ages, in the heritage which WW1 has left.
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