LONDON – A British museum is launching an ambitious online database to remember the lives of the millions of men and women who served in World War I.
The Imperial War Museum hopes that the history project, timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of WWI, could form a permanent digital memorial to the scores of soldiers, nurses and others from Britain and the Commonwealth who contributed to the war by piecing together their life stories.
The project's website, launched Monday, so far features records for 4.5 million people who served with Britain's army overseas, pulled together from existing archives and family collections. But many of the entries contain only minimal details — they are just blank pages attached to names — and the museum is urging the public to get involved in rebuilding those stories.
"Everybody can contribute to 'Lives of the First World War,' whether they choose to simply remember someone online, upload a picture from their family album, share a story passed down through generations, or connect official records to build a full and factual picture of what happened to that person throughout the war," said Luke Smith, who heads the project.
In practice, the website would be a crowd-sourced database that resembles a cross between Facebook and Wikipedia, encouraging users to populate the site with images and stories and share information.
The museum said it is aiming to add millions more records over the next months to include people who served with forces from Canada, Australia, New Zealand and India, as well as conscientious objectors and home front workers.