Doncaster 1914-18 At Home, At War

A presentation from the SYTT event - Remembering and Forgetting: Exploring local commemorations of WW1 (26th April, 2015) by Victoria Ryves, Community and Education Engagement Officer for Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery


Hi everyone, my name is Victoria and I’m here representing the Doncaster 1914-18 project. We are a Heritage Lottery Funded project and we are part of Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery. The presentation is a really really short one so I won’t keep you long. I’m just going to do a whirlwind tour of what our project is going to involve and draw some kind of conclusions on some of the obstacles we faced in terms of the field of commemorating. So as I said we are a five year Heritage Lottery Funded project and we got the big bucks so we did pretty well.

So the project aim is to encourage people of Doncaster and Doncaster’s surrounding areas and anyone that has a connection to Doncaster to uncover and share their First World War stories and to do that we are putting on a series of events, workshops, training opportunities, exhibitions, education programmes and a sparkly new website. The website is really exciting it’s going to be an online archive of objects from our collections at the museum archive and library but also encouraging the public to submit their own pictures, objects, all sorts of things.

We are working with a variety of local partners to try and present as many versions of the First World War as possible and our desired impact is quite ambitious. We want to engage more people in Doncaster with heritage, if possible everyone by harvesting on the interest in the First World War. It’s also quite an important thing for a museum as an institution. We’re trying to change the way that we do heritage so we’re trying to be more involved in community engagement and participatory practice.

So the first thing is we’re having a series of exhibitions, a lot of which haven’t happened yet so at the moment we have our first Doncaster at War annual travelling exhibition, at the moment it’s at the Central Library but it’s travelling around the whole borough of Doncaster. Also every year we are going to have an exhibition about the Kings own Yorkshire Light Infantry. So Doncaster Museum houses the Regimental Museum for that KOYLI Regiment. That exhibition they are painting the walls this week so it should open really soon. After that we’ve got a series of exhibitions which will be going on throughout the five years. The Doncaster Home Front exhibition is our final one and this is really exciting because it will be the overall one of all the work we’ve done which includes doing research with one of the local refugee centres who will be researching Belgian refugees in Doncaster as well as this, it will also showcase some of the work that I do with children so everyone that’s been involved in the project basically have something in the final exhibition.

Another part of the project is the online aspect, so we’re launching our new website which is basically an online collection so you should be able to see all the World War One objects, stories, photographs that we house in the museum, local studies library, archive and it also includes Cudsworth Hall, we are part of the same organisation, but rather excitingly we are encouraging people – we are kind of calling it crowd sourcing which is a really fancy way of saying if you have something in your house that’s related to the First World War and Doncaster, we’d like to see it. So we are telling people to take photographs, to scan in pictures and upload them to our website and if you’re not into computers or computer savvy, we are actually taking a roadshow out on tour to show how to do that and help you do it on site.

Events, this is my baby so I do the events and education, so a whistle stop tour of what I’m going to be doing. The first thing is called the Great War Tour, which is this vehicle I was explaining about taking round on a road show to encourage people to bring along their First World War objects and we’re going to scan and upload to take photos for our archive online. In twenty fifteen it’s booked to go along to lots of fates and fayres, coffee mornings, schools, you name it I’m going and the idea is we’re taking heritage out to people that wouldn’t usually seek it. People that wouldn’t come to events like this, we’re taking it to them.

In terms of commemoration it’s quite important because we’re trying to represent the diverse experience of the First World War across the borough of Doncaster so we’re going to all areas that were in the borough of Doncaster, some of which are now classed as being in Goole and other areas but we’re going there anyway. The first big event I’m hosting is the Home Front event. The first one is this summer as Cudworth Hall and we’re trying to kind of tell the story of Doncaster at two different dates, so the first will be 1915 and then we’ll do it all again in 2017 to represent 1917 and Doncaster, so we’re going to be looking at the impact of self-administered rationing and the push to growing your own food and as well as anti-German riots, training hospitals.

The other three events I’m going to quickly touch on; Tank Bank Week is really exciting because I get to stand on a tank and we’re trying to recreate this image here [looking at a photograph] so this image was taken in 1918 in Doncaster at the Market Place so we’re doing the same thing, we’ve got a tank coming along and we’re going to try and put our current politicians on top of it and see what happens. [laughs] We’re also tying that together with a sort of a modern day comfort pack initiative so during the First World War we know that lots of women, families, children put together packs to send across to the front. We’re working with a charity to do the same thing with contemporary soldiers today. So we’re trying to draw comparisons that this unfortunately wasn’t a war to end all wars and sort of drawing on that really.

Then the Welcome to the Foreign Shore project is the project I sort of touched on. We’re working with the BME community and refugees and asylum seekers to research the Belgium refugees that came to Doncaster who are really really interesting if you have chance to have a read. Unfortunately they were used as a bit of a political tool in some respects but working refugees and asylum seekers they are drawing parallels between their own experiences and experiences of the Belgium children and families that came here to Doncaster and finally I’m also doing education programmes in both primary and secondary and towards the end of my talk I’ve got lots of things to hand out that have just arrived so I’m going to be curious to get your feedback on whether kids will like this kind of stuff. They are all replicas not originals so I can hand them round and you can feel free to try them on and do what you will with them.

So I guess in terms of conclusions on commemoration, our project is really community driven so in doing that I’m hoping that means that we get a variety of aspects of the First World War and the variety and experience in the borough. It wasn’t the same, one village is not the same to the centre of Doncaster. Everyone experiences something different. For example the centre of Doncaster, the experience there was very different from the agricultural areas around it. In crowd sourcing it means that we are basically an outlet for the public to commemorate what’s important to them whether that means it’s your great grandfathers experience or you’re particularly passionate about women in the First World War or about agriculture there is space for you to include what you think’s important to commemorate.

We look at the home front and the military front and the biggest issue actually that we face to date is around the idea of the glorification of war, with events like Tank Bank Week with people standing on tanks, it has perhaps been suggested that we’re just looking at celebratory view of the war and I’m trying really hard to not do that in all cases so we are looking at objection, we’re looking at the realities of war and one of the things I have to pass round, actually there was a lot of discussion as to whether we included things like this in the boxes for children, whether we mentioned that people died in the First World War, and we decided it’s really important to represent the reality of the First World War and that’s it really, if you do have anything you’d like to share on our website or archive, or make a booking for me to come out on the Great War on Tour just let me know.

Transcript ends

Click on the link to find out more about the Doncaster 1914-1918 At Home, At War project 

This page was added on 21 August 2015.

Comments about this page

  • My grandfather private Alfred sanderson 47765 24tj battalion kings own light infantry killed in action France and Flanders 28.03.18. Left a widow and 5 children in Doncaster I am tryin to find out his date of enlistment. I have his last photograph with wife and children before going to war and I also have his death medal

    By Keith sanderson (26 June 2016)

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