We believe that the project will make a lasting difference for heritage, people and communities in the UK, as outlined below.

Outcomes for heritage

The project will deliver Britain’s first and only open access digital library of the popular music and related historical scholarship for the years 1914 to 1918 and immediately beyond. A corpus of 300 to 500 key songs will have been identified, catalogued, and documented such that the popular music of the period will have been better interpreted and its social relevance explained.

Development of the music library is expected to continue beyond the funding period, initially complemented and supported by the 3D immersive exhibition in association with the Oxford University War Poets Exhibition1 in Second Life, to offer a unique and enduring heritage experience.

Heritage will be identified / recorded

Although there exist compendia of Great War songs (for example, Max Arthur’s When This Bloody War Is Over and the now largely forgotten Songs That Won The War compiled in 1930 by Louis Giraud), these represent only a very small sample of the popular music of the era and make little or no attempt to interpret the songs as history in their own right. Our project aims to identify and fully catalogue a far larger sample.

Heritage will be better managed

At the present time the heritage is effectively unmanaged. Although recordings of the popular songs of the era are now available to the public as never before, many collected on CDs or as digital downloads from online retailers such as Amazon, the digitised sheet music available for purchase from retailers such as The Sheet Music Warehouse, there is no institution or organisation in the UK that has to date endeavoured to create a comprehensive and properly catalogued library of songs from the Great War era. This project has as its goal to create such a library.

Heritage will be in better condition

At the present time the number and quality of publicly accessible recordings from the Great War era is at best patchy. We aim to preserve the heritage in a better condition in two complementary senses: first, quality of reproduction; secondly, quality of documentation.

Heritage will be better interpreted and explained

We see interpretation and explanation to be at the very heart of the project. Popular music in any era will thematically often reflect the interests, preoccupations, concerns, and consensus of the cultural, political, or social milieu in which it is produced. In the 1960s, for example, the Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War inspired a slew of ‘protest songs’; yet it is clear that many such songs also became anthems for rallying mass support in the first example, mass opposition in the second. More than entertainment, in other words, song may play an agentive role in shaping opinions, expressing and confirming shared sentiments, changing perceptions, and galvanising people into action. The popular songs of the Great War, too, were frequently both mirrors and makers of change; and therefore deserve and demand interpretation in that light.

Outcomes for people

Outcomes for project participants

The first tier of beneficiaries (i.e. during the funding period) will be the participating schools, colleges, universities, and adult education centres in London and South-East England. Participants will have acquired

  • a broad familiarity with the popular music and musical culture of the Great War period,
  • a sound knowledge and understanding of the part played by popular song in the making of the history of the period,
  • an understanding of copyright and intellectual property pertaining to sound recording and sheet music publication,
  • and the curatorial skills that will enable them to (e.g. through extracurricular school clubs or adult education courses) to take ownership of the heritage.

Participants will additionally have gained valuable hands-on experience in working on a heritage project and in the course of so doing will have nurtured links with other Great War organisations (for example, the Western Front Association,2 the Great War Society,3 and the Royal British Legion), and with memory institutions such as the Imperial War Museum and the National Archives. The project will participate, through Learning Works in Europe CIC, in the Mozilla Open Badges programme to award recognition of e-heritage skills by school participants.

People will have learned about heritage

Project participants will have acquired a broad knowledge of the specific heritage, viz. the popular songs of the Great War era; further, will have developed an appreciation of the value of heritage in general in enriching our sense of who we are as a nation; and, finally, will have acquired the domain-specific knowledge and skills that will enable them to manage their heritage.

People will have developed skills

As noted above, the participants will have acquired both the knowledge and the skills to manage digital heritage projects with confidence. Younger participants may feel encouraged to consider future careers in the heritage sector.

People will have volunteered time

We expect that a subset of the project participants (staff and students) will choose to engage actively, as volunteers, in the finding and documenting of songs. This may embrace a gamut of activities that could include internet searches for recordings, sheet music, and interesting documentation; learning the songs for performance; cataloguing library acquisitions; and locating old records and music scores in charity shops, at car boot sales, and at record fairs.

People will have changed their attitudes and/or behaviour

We believe that engagement with the heritage will encourage participants to think differently about the popular songs of earlier generations. Younger participants in particular will be encouraged to see a cultural continuity from the popular entertainment of the Great War years to the entertainment they enjoy today.

People will have had an enjoyable experience

We firmly believe that hands-on participation in the project will not only have enhanced appreciation of the music itself but will also have inspired participants to confidently take ownership of a heritage that they will have come to see as their own.

We regard this latter point to be of paramount importance.

Outcomes for broader population

The digital library, on launch, will offer people in the United Kingdom and worldwide the opportunity to enrich their knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of this important part of Britain’s cultural heritage.

We also expect to reach audiences more directly through collaborations with Great War re-enactment societies and groups. We have already established contact with the Gordon Highlanders 1914-1918,4 the Great War Society,5 and the Manchester Regiment 1914-1918,6 all of whom have expressed interest in live performances in 2014 to 2018.

Next section: Meeting the application assessment criteria

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