A NEW online resource will help “unlock history” by giving access to First World War archives.

The Ogilby Muster (TOM) is being launched tomorrow (Wednesday November 3) following a four year project funded by a LIBOR grant from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Salisbury-based Army Museums Ogilby Trust.

It is an online platform which provides access to archives held in regimental museums across the UK - preserving the experiences and memories of those who served in the First World War for future generations.

Trustee of the Army Museums Ogilby Trust the Hon Katherine Swinfen Eady, said: “With the opening of the TOM Platform we are given a wonderful key to unlock history. As historians this is an invaluable gift, as family members researching their beloved lost relatives, it is equally as important.

“TOM allows us to piece together the truth left behind by the subjects, to build up that wonderful pattern of a jigsaw and find the missing fragments of information. It is especially important as it will help us all further our knowledge and understanding of not just the military side of the First World War, but the social aspect of an event in history that affected and shaped this country and the world.”

With more than 75 participating collections, and more set to join in 2022, TOM will eventually hold more than two million items including some never-before-seen material.

Covering the period 1900 to 1929, the platform contains documents, photographs, letters, diaries and more, all related to the British Army and the men and women who served.

The Trust’s director Andrew Lloyd says the digitisation of these archives provides a legacy for the future and that a key aim of the project was to make as much of this material as possible available to the public.

At the moment there are about 1.7 million items on the online platform.

Andrew says it is “very much a work in progress” but it will “expand and grow” over time as museums continue to add material.

“A lot of this material is not regularly accessed and never been seen before by the general public,” he added.

About a year was spent finding out what material there was, what condition it was in and where it was. It has also involved “huge cooperation” from the museums and their volunteers.

“When you say the word archive you always end up with a fairly dry and dusty image in your mind but the variety on this site is extraordinary and the material that we found.

“There’s letters, diaries, journals, and the usual type of material stuff as well, lots and lots of photographs. We’ve even got a bit of sound archive. We were able to digitise the archives of the Royal Corps of Music and that included 78 records, recordings that were taken in the early part of the First World War of the regimental band playing music.”

“In many ways it will bring aspects of that era to life again that people forget if we’re not careful,” said Andrew.

Lieutenant General Sir Philip Trousdell, the former Chairman of the Army Museums Ogilby Trust, says it is an “enormously powerful research tool” for students, family researchers, historians and those an interest in the First World War. He said: “This project honours the memories and experiences of those who served in the Army in ‘The War to End all Wars’, their families and their communities. The museums from which these archives have been mustered have rich collections of artefacts ready for you to examine.”

It launches tomorrow (Wednesday November 3) and can be found by typing The Ogilby Muster into an online search engine.


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