Remember the War: A Website Review

Like Eva, I found it quite difficult to find a ‘historical’ website, since we are inundated with a plethora to choose from, all of varying qualities and purposes. However, thanks to Liz and her recommendation of StumbleUpon, I came across (or is ‘stumbled upon’ more apropos?) Remember the War, a site that, according to its official Facebook page, allows an audience to ‘experience the history of World War II Britain in a whole new way.’ 

Launched for Remembrance Day of 2011 as a tribute to those who ‘died, suffered, and survived,’ the site is basically a timeline that marks the major events of World War II, while taking special note of British contributions, and one simply navigates seamlessly from one event/page to the next with the click of an arrow. While this hardly seems innovative, its visual appeal and integrated use of archival media footage makes this site particularly interesting. The site itself is nicely and neatly designed for the most part, while the multimedia elements are cleanly integrated into any given page. Each event is clearly noted along with the necessary dates, along with other tidbits of information where necessary, all corresponding to, at the very least, a photograph that depicts the event at hand. The site makes good use of radio recordings and film footage, and coupled with the chosen visual representations, is able to bring history to life. For me, the site does a wonderful job of appealing to the sensory perceptions.

However, there are a number of problems that I encountered when evaluating it from a historical viewpoint. First, there are no external references to any of the events in question, which brings up some questions for me, namely the accuracy of the facts being presented, and, assuming that such facts are sound, how familiar an audience has to be with the events to take the facts as truth – are these events general knowledge, or would they only be general knowledge for someone who has prior or extensive knowledge of British history, or the role that Britain played in WWII?

As well, in looking at the creators of the site, I discovered that they are web designers, which brings to mind the heart of the readings of the past two weeks, namely to whom does authoritative retelling of historical accounts belong to, and specifically Carr’s reading and The Valour and the Horror. As web designers, would their account of history hold the same weight as an account told by a professional historian? Also, in creating a site that is meant as a tribute to those who were involved in some way with the war, how much of this account is a glorification of valiant efforts in a specific way, and with a specific audience in mind?

Finally, although I loved the archival footage, I found myself wanting to know where such sources came from, and was unable to find any credits, which gives rise to the question of copyright and accessibility. It would be great to incorporate archival footage into our final projects, especially any aural or video media. However, if such materials don’t exist in the public domain, are they easily accessible? And even if it were the case that sources came from a private collection, credit has to given where it’s due.

While I doubt that I would be able to create a site that’s nearly as visually appealing or technologically savvy, the site highlighted to me that visual presentation, amongst other factors, is key. In making a clean website, the creators did much to whet my appetite, and further engage me in their project, especially since I had no idea what site to review when I first started. And perhaps, in presenting the historical events as they did, with more emphasis on the presentation of multimedia, the creators allow the audience to let the archives speak for themselves, creating a greater chance for critical evaluation, albiet outside of the scope of the site itself.

 

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