Australian War Memorial blogs!

This is very cool: the Australian War Memorial, Australia's foremost military history museum, seems to be getting into blogging in a big way! Today, there was an announcement on H-War (and Victoria's cross? is already on the case) of a group blog running in conjunction with an exhibition about Australia's participation in the big Western Front battles of 1917: To Flanders Fields, 1917. It's maintained by a group of AWM curators and historians: Peter Burness, Craig Tibbitts, Shaune Lakin and Anne-Marie Condé.

That's all I was going to mention, but I noticed that the AWM has set up a subdomain called blog.awm.gov.au, which suggested that there might be other AWM blogs out there. Now, that page is completely blank, so I used my Google-fu to see if I could find anything else using that domainname. And there are four more blogs! Focus: photography & war 1945-2006; Gallipoli Battlefield Tour 2007; George Lambert: Gallipoli & Palestine Landscapes; Lawrence of Arabia & the Light Horse. All of them accompany AWM exhibitions, except for the Gallipoli tour one, obviously. Presumably they won't be updated after their associated exhibition ends, but then there'll be other blogs to replace them.

The AWM is to be applauded for this. They all look very interesting and are already well-established, with posts on a variety of intriguing topics, with some fantastic illustrations to boot (drawing on one of the Memorial's strengths there). A lot of effort has been put into them and it shows. But I wonder why I haven't come across any of these blogs before? Partly it's because I don't visit the AWM homepage often enough -- they're all listed there quite prominently (so much for Google-fu!) But another part of the answer would seem to be that the AWM's bloggers haven't tried to hook into the rest of the historioblogosphere -- there are no links to other blogs in their sidebars or posts (that I could see anyway). Whether this is by design or by accident I can't say -- I can see why they'd want to focus on their own content -- but I think they're missing out on promotional opportunities by neglecting the social networking aspect of blogging. Hopefully a bit of linkage in their direction will show them what they are missing.

I don't want to end on even that slightly sour note, as I do think this is really exciting, so I'll point to one post by Anne-Marie Condé which caught my eye. It's about the Australian War Records Section, formed in London in May 1917, effectively the origins of the AWM itself, and features some photographs and artefacts associated with it, such as a 1918-pattern pair of anti-gas goggles and a stuffed carrier pigeon. There's also some more good news: the AWM is digitising the war diaries of Australian Army units involved in the various wars of the twentieth century. The project is only its early days, but this is going to be a tremendous resource for historians and genealogists. I was disappointed, though, to discover that war diary entries don't begin with sentences like 'Dear war diary, today we launched another futile assault against Turkish positions at Lone Pine ...' :D

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11 thoughts on “Australian War Memorial blogs!

  1. Zebee

    Pity their net.connection is so bad. Downloads of war diaries just sit there, blogs take more than forever to load. Something's wrong....

  2. Post author

    They don't seem particularly slow to me, Zebee. Is it still like it?

    Gary, I thought so, but you beat me to the punch in posting it :)

  3. Hi, thanks for the feedback on our (AWM) blogs. It isn't by design that we are not including links. We are just a bit new to all of this and still learning about how best to get our blogs out there and expose more of our content and activities like exhibitions. We will be happy to include any links that you think are advisable and relevant.
    Some of the blogs you can see now will last a while as the exhibitions will tour, so new content will be added during those tours. Some, like 1917 and Lawrence will only last for a short while as live blogs after the exhibitions come down (as they won't be touring), but we will archive these blogs and they'll still be available as reference sites.
    We do know there is a problem sometimes with the blogs not loading well. This seems to be a technical problem coming from the server or the database that runs them, but we are looking into it now and hope to have it fixed very soon.
    The war diaries should download fast enough, especially with faster speeds like broadband being now more common. We have so many pages up there now that we've simply had to bundle them by months, but most bundles are in the order of 3-6 Mb and we believe that this shouldn't cause too many problems for people who want to see them, especially as they are provided for FREE:)
    Thanks again,
    Mal

  4. Post author

    Thanks for the response, Mal. I hope I didn't sound too harsh about the linking -- it's only a minor thing compared to the fact that the blogs exist at all!

    As for what other blogs might be suitable to link to, there's a few which might be of broad interest to you, but very few exactly on topic (ie Australian military history), that I know of. (As you will have seen, I'm Australian but only occasionally post on Australian history.) Australian Flying Corps is the only one I know of (which I was saving for a future post here, oh well). There are a few blogs which cover modern military history from a Commonwealth, well mainly British perspective: Break of Day in the Trenches, Great War Fiction, Historic battlefields, Investigations of a Dog, Thoughts on Military History, Trench Fever, Victoria's cross?, War Starts at Midnight! And perhaps Airminded :)

    There are a few other military history blogs mentioned in my sidebar on the front page, one worth noting in particular is Blog them Out of the Stone Age, one of the longest-running military history blogs and one which looks at the development of the field in a wider perspective. Others can be found at Cliopatria's blogroll (Cliopatria itself being about the most important history blog). But as I have noted before, most of these are about the American Civil War, which is another reason why I was glad to find the AWM blogs.

    Finally, there are also the various history carnivals -- monthly (or so) round-ups of some of the best history blog posts on an array of subjects, good ways of promoting your blogs. Probably the two most relevant for the AWM blogs are the History Carnival itself and the new Military History Carnival.

    I hope that helps!

  5. Thanks Brett, I'll have a look at those blogs and find a few that are relevant for us. Of all our blogs, I think Lawrence has the most scope for strange links and really, that is TE Lawrence all over. There is even scope to include something on the Civil War as Sir Harry Chauvel himself drew the comparison in describing the efforts of his Desert Mounted Corps in breaking through and cutting off a couple of Turkish Armies in September 1918 as his 'Jeb Stuart ride'.
    I must admit that I wasn't at all aware of the history carnivals, but will take on your tip enthusiastically!
    Your advice has been very helpful. Cheers,
    Mal

  6. Brett, a further follow-up: I've added many of these blogs to my Google Reader and will monitor them for a while to see what kind of subjects they range over before adding too many links. The feeling here is that we probably don't want to clutter up all of our blogs with too many links that are not directly related to the subject or focus of those blogs. Thanks again,

    Mal

  7. Post author

    That's fair enough, of course only you can say whether any particular blog is worthy of a link!

    Interesting comment by Chauvel. If you did want to include an ACW blog, Civil War Memory is a good one. By the way, I've written here before about a relative of mine (3rd paragraph) who was in 3rd LHR and 15th LHR, but spent most of his war in the Imperial Camel Corps. Does the ICC feature in your exhibition or blog at all?

  8. Thanks again Brett. I assume from reading your post about RLG Holman that you've found his service record at the NAA site. You've probably also seen his Embarkation Roll entry on our site, but it is here if you've not seen it:
    http://www.awm.gov.au/cms_images/awm8/10_14_4/pdf/0454.pdf
    I checked elsewhere in our biographic databases and he doesn't appear on the Red Cross files or in Honours and Awards.

    We will be recognising the ICC in the exhibition, primarily in relation to Magdhaba in late 1916. Most of the focus of the exhibition itself is however, after that and on 1917 and 1918. I am sure we will be covering more of the ICC in our blog and in part that is one of the best reasons for the blogs. There is always a problem fitting everything into our exhibitions, but blogs may be used to relate some stories that have either been dropped for some reason or are not really central to the main exhibition storyline.
    Mal

  9. Post author

    Thanks, that corresponds with what I'd previously found about Sgt Holman. And I look forward to reading about the ICC at Lawrence, especially since I'm sadly unlikely to make to Canberra to see the exhibition itself.

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