Work on the Special Collections First World War centenary website wrapped up in November 2018 on the 100th anniversary of the Armistice.
Launched in August 2014 and updated during the four-year centenary period, the now completed website contains brief biographies of 60 of the 720 men and women listed in the University’s original Roll of Honour. The website also features accounts that explore life at Auckland University College (AUC) during the war years. These accounts also give an insight into the nearby Training College as the two institutions were closely linked and many trainee teachers studied simultaneously at AUC.
It was a stimulating and rewarding project. We digitised the Roll of Honour to make it widely available so we were pleased when people from here and overseas contacted us to share information about Collegians, to let us know they had learnt something new about their relatives, and to pursue family and academic research.
Collegians and College life
The biographical sketches written by Special Collections staff and other contributors showed the diverse lives and wartime experiences of Collegians. The men and women we wrote about served in a range of capacities; some survived the war, some did not. The war opened up new opportunities for some Collegians, including those who took up post-war university scholarships in Britain and chose to remain overseas. Most, however, came home and resumed work or university studies. Some were left with permanent disabilities and in poor health. Some served again in the Second World War, others became dedicated pacifists.
The College life pieces written by archivist Katherine Pawley revealed the impact of war on what was a small and close-knit university community. Life carried on, but student numbers at AUC dipped for a time, lecturers enlisted and were replaced, some clubs, carnivals and tournaments stopped temporarily and even the supply of technical equipment was interrupted. And throughout, students and staff maintained the Roll and mourned the absence and deaths of family, friends and colleagues.
Research and collaboration
The project also set out to encourage new research and to assist researchers by providing extensive referencing and highlighting the most relevant University-related sources in Special Collections. We delved deeply into our archives, books, periodicals and pamphlets for the project and came out with a renewed appreciation of the wide research value of these holdings.
The centenary commemorations inspired widespread collaboration between institutions and the community and reinforced the importance of digitised heritage collections. We shared our metadata and in turn made good use of locally digitised content, including Papers Past, Online Cenotaph, military personnel records, and photographs at the National Library, National Army Museum Te Mata Toa and Auckland Libraries.
Although we will no longer add new content, the website remains and we continue to welcome research enquiries via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jo Birks, Cultural Collections Adviser and Special Collections First World War centenary website editor
Remembering the war: 21st century commemorative projects
26 January 2016. The digitised Auckland University College Roll of Honour was the focus of a Winter Lecture by University of Auckland historian Dr Deborah Montgomerie.
In that lecture, which you can listen to below, Dr Montgomerie talks about the `commemorative impulse’ behind the flood of official and community-driven First World War centenary projects. She discusses how memorial practices have changed over time and notes that the Roll of Honour project reflects the contemporary emphasis on micro-histories that illuminate individual experiences of war. It also fits with international efforts to make archival sources digitally available for research.
Panel discussion podcast
1 September 2014. Listen to three University of Auckland historians - Emeritus Professor Raewyn Dalziel, Dr Maartje Abbenhuis and Dr Deborah Montgomerie - and Special Collections Manager Stephen Innes discuss the War, the College and the Roll of Honour.
Roll of Honour on display
8 August 2014. To coincide with the launch of this Special Collections First World War centenary website, we have prepared a display of original archival material which explores the creation of the Auckland University College Roll of Honour.
The display, which includes two volumes of the Roll, can be found outside the Special Collections reading room on Level G of the General Library. It ends Friday, 3 October 2014.