Friday, 3 January 2014

Workshop in Wartime

23rd December 2013

By Jack Welch, Volunteer Press Officer

It was the final session of the year today, volunteer Sara, led a drama workshop on World War One making stories from facts and artefacts of the time to help us understand the experience of the people of Dorset back then. We thought that we'd let the pictures tell the story of our day, as we ended 2013 on a high. One of our volunteers remarked they "enjoyed getting stuck in aging paper, eating lots of chocolate, acting and being taught new information." Enjoy!:

A Military Routine

19th December 2013

By Jack Welch, Volunteer Press Officer

After Christmas celebrations on Tuesday, it was back to business as usual for today, as a number of the WITS team made a short walk up to the The Keep Museum, where its vast resources made this the perfect location to continue our investigations into Dorset soldier's experience of the First World War. The team split off into various tasks, in order to ensure we could gather enough evidence for the ten caches we are going to place around various locations on our interactive heritage trail of Walking in the Shoes of a First World War Dorset soldier's training for war.

Rosie, in her librarian role, compiles documents together.
Issy was delving into the works of T.E. Lawrence and his journey and listing Devon and Dorset regiments and the Dorset Yeomanry engagement in the war and researching 'telling facts' of a  Dorset soldier's personal experience. The team at the museum believe in the value of "bringing back to life' the soldiers of Dorset, by telling their story and we had the privilege of sharing in their research. They advised us by using real-life stories set in the correct political and social context of the war would have the most impact on the Dorset public.
 We were surprised to learn when a photograph revealed that our base, Routes: Young Persons Information and Advice Centre, 5 North Square, was once a recreational centre for soldiers who were based in the local area. How times have changed, with the building strikingly different compared to how it appears in the photo. Ashley had got himself stuck into his own specialist subject of the weapons of a soldier and recording a description from a retired sergeant major on how they would be trained to appropriately handle these dangerous objects.

The group getting busy with their assigned tasks
Rivan was on research duties, as he looked for additional stories and photo evidence on trench raids, and quizzed one of the Keep's volunteers on any findings about trenches and the experiences of crew members who operated tanks. Finally, Jack was capturing some new primary evidence, as he recorded the stories of curator, retired Captain Colin Parr and volunteer, Christopher Jary, about their own knowledge and family recollections of the time. Colin was even kind enough to don the hat of an officer, as he took Jack through the day in the life of  a new First World War recruit. The building of The Keep Military Museum was part of the barracks for the Devon and Dorset regiment and was a place that new recruits would have come to from all over Dorset.  Our morning there proved to be very constructive, with less tasks to complete now when the group returns to the museum after the New Year.

Alongside some of the treats we had leftover from Tuesday and hot drinks all round, we thanked the Keep for their time and expertise and terrific primary source research opportunities.

The group were very proud of their efforts.

Christmas Reunion

17th December 2013

By Jack Welch, Volunteer Press Officer

It's getting festive down at WITS central today, as we celebrated our countdown to Christmas and the fantastic achievements of our project so far while our volunteers feasted on an assortment of delicious treats, including chocolate cake, mince pies and the odd savoury snack once in a while! Today was perhaps all the more special though, for we saw the return of our hard-working student volunteers, as they make a brief return to Dorset to have a rest from their busy studies at their respective universities. We welcomed back Jenny, Jack and Issy to join in all the numerous activities we had in store for them and a special viewing of the sitcom, Blackadder Goes Forth.
Rosie and Liz read up on some of Hardy's melancholy work. 

First though, we had a bit of work to crack on with, when we had our resident Thomas Hardy poetry expert, Jasmine, a volunteer at the The Keep Museum, to investigate the context on some of Hardy's war poetry during the course WWI. Although the subject, and the poetry content itself, was less than festive in its spirit, the group were very intrigued to learn about how Hardy harboured a personal guilt about how he could only convey his frustration about the events through his writing. We are looking forward to investigating further the poetry written by Hardy and his contemporaries, as well as producing our own!

Thanks to our expert and volunteers who took part
in the activity. 
Once that task was completed, it was over to the back room as we enjoyed the remainder of our time watching Blackadder and his trials in the trenches. The snacks, unsurprisingly, went down a treat with the group and marking 2013 for WITS as a big success for everyone!