The National Archives (UK) “Operation War Diary” Initiative

MIKAN 3329248By Jesse MacLeod

Related to our previous post about the recent uploading of newly digitized material, this week’s blog post will discuss a new initiative on the part of The National Archives in the UK (TNA).

“Operation War Diary” (OWD) is a crowd-sourcing initiative intended to enrich available information about the war diaries of the First World War recently made available online. Free of charge, interested people can register with the OWD site to digitally tag pages of war diaries with relevant info regarding individual soldiers mentioned, places, battles, and a variety of other things which will subsequently pop up in a keyword search. What this will do is help researchers quickly find information on who or what they are studying. This would be particularly useful for researchers looking at individual soldiers, as battles or places can typically be found by narrowing a search by date, whereas this would not work as well for individuals. One can imagine the excitement a researcher would experience upon finding reference in official primary documents to a family member, or someone of interest for other reasons. This initiative on the part of TNA seeks to facilitate these kinds of discoveries in a quick and accessible manner.

The OWD website offers a concise tutorial for new users on how to go about tagging pages and what to look for. How this works is that TNA makes individual pages available for OWD to use via the Zooniverse platform, and pages with user-added detail will eventually be made available to researchers for free. It is a fun and engaging process that can be done in your spare time which can have a profoundly meaningful impact on the value of the primary documents presented.

The Operation War Diary initiative is partnering with the Imperial War Museum for a related project dealing with individual soldier stories, which will be the subject of a subsequent blog post in the coming weeks.

Photo courtesy of Library and Archives Canada, MIKAN  3329248