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West Berkshire called to preserve Second World War memories

A new nationwide campaign is collecting and digitally preserving Second World War memories for future generations.

Their Finest Hour is a new initiative run by a team based at the University of Oxford working to create a comprehensive digital archive of wartime stories and objects at risk of being lost.

Digital collection days are being organised across the country — and three are now planned at multiple locations in West Berkshire.

The nationwide project is seeking any testimonies and objects from anyone connected to the Second World War and their families
The nationwide project is seeking any testimonies and objects from anyone connected to the Second World War and their families

Many people have war-related stories and objects which have been passed down from parents, grandparents and other relatives.

West Berkshire Council’s culture and libraries team is appealing to members of the public to bring stories and objects associated with their family’s wartime experience such as diaries, letters, medals, journals and ration books.

Each contribution will be recorded, digitised and uploaded to a free online archive — scheduled to go live in June next year.

“This will be a lovely opportunity to engage with the community across different generations and to make them the guardians of this incredibly important piece of our history,” said West Berkshire councillor, Janine Lewis.

“We lose so much when a generation is no longer with us, and this project gives us a unique opportunity to preserve memories and history in a personal way that history books alone cannot.”

West Berkshire’s digital collections days will take place at the following locations and dates:

Theale Library on Tuesday, November 14 (10am until 2pm),

Hungerford Library on Thursday, November 30 (10am until 2pm),

And West Berkshire Museum on Wednesday, January 17 (10am until 2pm).

Project leader, Stuart Lee, said: “We know from previous projects people have so many wonderful objects, photos and anecdotes passed down from family members which are at risk of being lost or forgotten.

“Our aim is to empower local communities to digitally preserve these stories and objects before they are lost to posterity.”

The project team is interested in contributions from people with any family connections to the war — not just servicemen — especially people from underrepresented backgrounds.

The project is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Please contact Gemma Taylor on gemma.taylor@westberks.gov.uk to volunteer or request further information.

Please also visit https://theirfinesthour.english.ox.ac.uk/ to share your family’s story.

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