Oxford University project aims to preserve Second World War memories

Friday 2nd Sep 2022, 10.44am

A project led by the Faculty of English at the University of Oxford is looking for contributions to a free online archive of family stories, anecdotes, memories, and digitized objects relating to people’s experiences of the Second World War.

 Their Finest Hour, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, aims to collect and digitally archive the everyday stories and objects of the Second World War in order to preserve these memories and make them freely available to the public.

Led by Dr Stuart Lee of the Faculty of English, the project team will:

  • Run a series of collection events at major museums, libraries, and heritage centres across the UK and encourage people to bring war-related stories and materials – letters, photos, diaries, memorabilia, or just stories handed down from family members – for digitization; 
  • Capture people’s thoughts and reactions to the way the war is remembered today; 
  • Train an army of volunteers and support them in running their own collection events in village halls, community centres, faith centres, schools, colleges, and elsewhere; 
  • Offer an online website to allow people to upload their objects and/or stories and memories remotely; 
  • Preserve all the collected stories and objects in a free-to-use online archive that will be launched on 6 June 2024, the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

We’re delighted to be able to create this archive with memories of the Second World War. We know from previous projects that people have so many wonderful objects, photos, and anecdotes which have been passed down from family members which are at risk of getting lost or being forgotten. Our aim is to empower local communities to digitally preserve these stories and objects before they are lost to posterity.

Dr Stuart Lee, Faculty of English, University of Oxford

The team is especially interested in collecting contributions from people from underrepresented backgrounds. Working with the Burma Star Memorial Fund, the Gurkha Museum, the Sikh Pioneers and Light infantry Association, and ‘We Shall Tell Their Story’, the project aims to increase the diversity of people benefiting from Second World War heritage.   
Their Finest Hour is proud to be working in conjunction with the Royal Air Force Museum, the Royal Navy Museum, the National Army Museum, and the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA). 
To contribute stories or objects to the Their Finest Hour archive, visit the project website.

A series of collection events will take place throughout the UK,  details on these and the project’s progress can be found on Facebook and Twitter.