Works in Progress - Autumn 2016

Glimpses of the Great War

By Charlotte Salley | September 6, 2016
National Archives

 

How do you reconcile today’s green meadows with the bloody battlefields of a century ago? With an app, of course. After a two-year collaboration among the National Archives, the Smithsonian, the National WWI Museum, and the web platform Historypin, students and history buffs will soon be able to use their smartphones and tablets to view a slew of rarely seen photographs and even black-and-white footage of the Great War.

The beta version of the app will be released in classrooms this fall, and the full version is set to be unveiled in 2017, to coincide with the centennial of American involvement in the First World War.

“A primary goal of the app is to connect teachers and students to primary sources,” says Pamela Wright, chief innovation officer at the National Archives. She says the app will invite users to “add their own local stories and content around particular WWI-era themes like migration, women’s suffrage, technology, and recreation.”

Over the past year, teachers, museum staff, and others attended design workshops to provide feedback for the project. In June, 10 teachers gathered at the National WWI Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, for a behind-the-scenes look. The app’s visual emphasis—graphic but not gory—deftly solves a tricky conundrum: how to teach kids about mature content like war, especially about a war that started more than a hundred years ago.

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