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Lasting Remembrance

Newfoundland, Labrador and War: What the data tells us

Campus and Community

By Kristine Power

Access to digitized materials is creating opportunities for researchers that never existed before.

Memorial University Libraries’ Lasting Remembrance: Newfoundland, Labrador and War is a digital humanities project that integrates historical geographic information system (GIS) data with archival resources, digital images, digitized newspapers and historical information about the Royal Newfoundland Regiment during the First World War.

With some cursory exploring, it’s possible to explore a detailed topography of Beaumount-Hamel, France, that allows the viewer to toggle between an elevation model of the First World War battlefield and a view showing trench locations and information about the units occupying them.

This is more detail than typically found on a map and is a new frontier of technology layered over technology to rebuild a significant and complex period of history.

Portion of a story map detailing events at  Beaumount-Hamel, France.
Photo: Submitted

Researchers can transverse history, space and location like a time traveller. In this case, the First World War becomes an experience where the meaning of war and its implications can be questioned in new and profound ways.

Highly integrated

The term digital humanities can include everything from online preservation to digital mapping and data mining to the use of GIS data.

Lasting Remembrance uses GIS story map templates with text and a variety of other media and hyperlinks to create a highly integrated representation of Newfoundland and Labrador’s role in the First World War by grounding it very specific and relevant geography.

GIS Story Map
GIS story map illustrating home addresses of soldiers from St. John’s, N.L.
Photo: Submitted

“We have been fortunate to have had a fantastic team of students work on these maps to not only relate the involvement of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment during the First World War, but to use this medium to serve as a portal to the other resources that we hold in the library,” said David Mercer, map room assistant, GIS specialist and committee member.

“Libraries are uniquely positioned to engage in these types of digital humanities projects,” said Dr. Kathryn Rose, librarian and committee chair of the project. “While this particular project draws on our holdings and the research areas of the staff and librarians in the system, our expertise and infrastructure allows us to continuously provide the ongoing support required to update the resource.”

Dr. Rose says the committee hopes the resource encourages students, faculty and the people of the province to continue to ask questions about Newfoundland and Labrador’s Great War experience and engage with the libraries’ vast collections relating to the topic. She also hopes the project will continue to gain momentum with new resources, as well as possible new collaborators.

Lasting Remembrance
A screen cap from the Lasting Remembrance site.
Photo: Submitted

The project in an important one for Memorial University Libraries, as it preserves and protects many of the province’s most precious cultural, historical and political materials in its Archives and Special Collections Division and the Centre for Newfoundland Studies.

“The Libraries are proud to be part of the Lasting Remembrance project that honours the very foundations of this university as a living memorial,” said Susan Cleyle, university librarian.

To explore Lasting Remembrance: Newfoundland, Labrador and War, visit here.

Lasting Remembrance was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and also by Memorial University’s Living Memorial Commemoration Program.

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