The Great War Primary Document Archives - 1998

The Great War Primary Documents Archive now holds some 8,000 fully searchable pages of these significant official and public documents. Using our status as the Web's non-partisan source of this material, a primary resource for isolated and under-funded repositories worldwide, we propose to more than double these holdings, to obtain and replicate non-Latin alphabet language documents to more fully represent non-European theatres and political negotiations concerning smaller nations and colonial peoples, to serve as repository for Great War documents and images scanned and transmitted from Russian and Eastern European sources, and to collaborate with one of the largest Great War archives in the United States to virtualize their collection while their museum undergoes physical renovation. The Archive requests the assistance of the NEH to fulfil these objectives.

Unlike paper archives, GWPDA has a theoretically infinite lifetime. As more information and documents are added to the archive, more documents are retrieved from the perils of necessary library weeding, physical decay, and contemporary fashion. The goal for 1998-2000 is to increase by approximately 10,000 total pages (including at least a twenty per cent increase of graphical images to include maps, graphs, statistical presentations), the number of appropriate primary documents presented online. These will include, but will not be confined to significantly increased representation of diplomatic, political, and military documents dealing with non- European elements of the Great War, including those documents only available in non-Latin alphabets, documents (treaties,negotiations, historical testaments, diplomatic minutes, etc.) and maps and other graphical material which have not been inprint, nor easily available to the public since approximately 1925.

GWPDA receives no external funding from any agency at the present time, although significant in-kind donations have supported its extence from its founding. GWPDA is unique on the Web in its design, content and theme, and there are therefore no comparisons to be made.

The GWPDA has already (as of January 9, 1998) reached nearly 140,000 individuals. The visitor count is increasing at the rate of approximately 500 per week. It is the only consolidated primary documents archive focused on the lessons and effects of the Great War, and has set the standard for all similar attempts to move the means of scholarly and practical enquiry to an electronic form. In its brief existence, GWPDA has been responsible for presenting instantly accessible and searchable material which has in many ways been threatened by time itself -- true copies of Great War Treaties, such still controversial accounts as the Bryce Report on Belgian Atrocities (often cited but seldom seen), the moment-by-moment telegraphic record of the efforts of the European powers to avoid war, the investigative analyses which shaped the modern Middle East and the post-war negotiations and settlements which were meant to eliminate international conflict forever.

GWPDA has made complete text reproductions of treaties, negotiations, historical accounts, reports and statements available to all policymakers, students, researchers and other interested parties. No other electronic archive, created and maintained by the efforts of scholars acting solely in the interests of maintaining the historical record approaches the volume, selection and public access of this collection.

GWPDA has received permission to reproduce primary and public documents from most of the combatant countries, and maintains communications with the various public archives and copyright centers in Canada, Great Britain, France, Australia and soon Russia, ensuring the legality of reproduction of scholarly and public documents as understood under current U.S. law. Two major collaborators are anticipated during the next year, and a third, the French BDIC is organizing its material to link with GWPDA. The first collaborator is the Liberty Memorial, of Kansas City, Missouri. The Liberty Memorial Museum of World War One, through the Kansas City Star's Raising Kansas City Digital History Project and the Liberty Memorial Committee for the Native Sons of Kansas City (a cultural preservation society working to renovate the badly decayed Liberty Memorial, the only museum in the United States specializing in the Great War.) The Memorial, dedicated in 1921, has a unique paper archive, including such items as the holograph record of the Battery E, 129th Field Artillery, 35th Division Reunion's account of their first meeting held in Kansas City, Missouri in 1921, with Captain Harry S Truman in attendance. The Memorial's map collection for example, contains over six hundred maps under forty subject categories including specific U.S. divisions, British maps of Palestine and Asia and German maps of the Rhineland and the East. This material has in many cases been unavailable to scholars for nearly half a decade because of the decay of the Memorial's fabric, but since it forms the record of U.S. public opinion, and to that degree informed the conduct of the United States after the war as a new world power, it is extremely desireable that it be included in virtual form.

Organizational History

The Great War Primary Documents Archive opened on the World Wide Web in February, 1996, with the help and technical support of members of the University of Kansas and Brigham Young University. The Archive provides free and universal public access to the full text records of the history of World War I and the twentieth century's attempts to deal with worldwide conflict, the collapse of national and international political agreement into active warfare and the post-war effort to create a world without war. Thus far, nearly 140,000 students, scholars and researchers have examined, analyzed and incorporated these documents into their work.

GWPDA is part of the Heritage Group, loosely affiliated with the University of Kansas, but maintaining a far reaching presence on the Web. Heritage was formed by the interests of senior historians, students and other scholars throughout the United States in developing the new medium for scholarly and collaborative research. To date, Heritage has been involved in the creation of such resources as HNSource, (which as a Lynx site was the first true Information Server, one of the first public WWW sites, and was the very first "maintainer" site of the World-Wide Web Virtual Library.) Heritage was and continues to be involved in placing online such organizations as the Kansas State Historical Society, (the first local, regional, or state historical resource on-line); the Kansas Humanities Council, (the first Humanities Council on-line); and Sunflower Journeys, first PBS program, and one of the very first television programs anywhere, on-line. Heritage also maintains seven major and several lesser international academic discussion lists, open to all applicants, with a subscribership of over 7,000 from about fifty different countries, and provides a reading audience of considerably over 10,000 who are provided access to our discussions through various news-feeds, and, through, a potential readership of millions. Some of our lists, primarily mediev-l (Medieval History) are archived by both public and commercial organizations, and these searchable archives serve as research resources for students and scholars around the world. We also maintain HERITAGE, a discussion list for members of the Heritage group to get help from each other, coordinate their activities, and offer mutual encouragement. The Heritage group also maintains, creates and controls about a hundred web sites sharing ten separate computer accounts on, and have a few more accounts for list management and discussion archiving. The on-line library, "Carrie" supplements public and school libraries with over 5,000 full texts, including foreign language texts and access to on-line foreign language lessons. Its collection of 500 documents relating to American History and Government provides free supplementary readings for both K-12 and college classes. The Early Kansas Imprint Scanning (EKIS) group has scanned, proofed and formatted, and placed on-line some 15,000 pages of materials on Kansas History and Life, and their collection continues to grow. EKIS materials are managed by the Electronic Kansas Collection (KanColl), which turns the texts into attractive on-line book form, published the electronic magazine "Voices" six times a year, maintains a growing library of materials written expressly for KanColl, a graphics department, map collections, bibliographies, research data, tutorials, and the like, and is planning on entering the field of oral history. In addition, Carrie contains a manuscript collection with several unpublished sixteenth-century Spanish royal documents and some early Dutch navigational charts. In cooperation with some European sites, Heritage hopes to establish a Center for the Study of Early Mediterranean Commerce. It will also be the home of BWAKA, the Pottawatomi Language site when the dictionary and audio files are ready to be made available to the public. Carrie is also the home of the documentary collections, with links to the United Nations, European Historical Documents (EuroDocs), the Catholic Church, and our own American War materials (WWI/WWW).

Not too long ago, the University of Kansas ran a record of its system's web use for an entire week. "Carrie" received some 80,000 requests -- a much better gauge of use than a simple number of "hits" on a site's main page. Parts of its collections have been copied for use in Europe, Australia, and East Asia. The Latin Word-List and Latin Grammar Aid is used literally throughout the world, and our collection of Latin texts is highly regarded.

"History," the WWW-Virtual Library site, offers a periodically updated clickable list of some 2,000 sites of interest to historians as well as an internal connection to a site offering some 1,500 pointers to materials pertaining to Ancient Rome, and will be adding a couple of other major specialized indexes shortly. History also contains MALIN,the main FTP site, containing among other things the compressed texts of the works prepared for use by the On-Line Medieval and Classical Library (OMACL).

Heritage has attempted to encourage the development of other sites. It has (informally and without charge) advised and provided training to the US Army and several United States government departments and agencies, to other universities and K-12 schools, to libraries, communities and others. Prize- winning sites such as Terra Nostra, EHAWK-CADRE, ORB, and Omnivore News Service were first housed and nurtured in Heritage sites, and Heritage has provided the models and initial Web pages for numbers of churches, museums, libraries -- even humane societies and flower clubs. Members of the Heritage Group have accumulated a good deal of on-line experience, and many of them serve (again, without compensation) on the editorial boards and boards of directors of non-for-profit organizations as well as advising some commercial organizations in developments that they consider to be in the public interest.

Heritage has tried to follow an unusual standard of public service. Except for those members who are employed by affiliated organizations such as the Kansas State Historical Society, none of the members of the Heritage Group are paid for their work, nor do they receive released time or any other compensation. The Group has been provided facilities and technical support by the Academic Computing Service of the University of Kansas, but has never asked for, or received, funding of any sort. For the most part, it has avoided publicity for itself and tried to focus public attention upon the facilities it has provided. The members themselves have paid for their equipment and materials through various means, and the Group as a whole has avoided any form of organization that would incur costs. It is a non-profit group primarily because it has absolutely no income. As such, it has no proprietary interest in anything it creates, and, where it is proper to do so, it makes the materials it prepares completely free to the public to do with as they wish. The goal of Heritage has been to provide an example of what can be accomplished by "average" people working together in the public interest. The Heritage Group has been called "an essay in electronic populism," and most of us are content with that. GWPDA is very proud to be a part of the Heritage Group in its effort to maintain scholarly excellence within the electronic medium.