- Finding names of local men who died in action during WW1 – based on Richard Broadhead’s book of soldier biographies and linked to a memorial featured in the exhibition.
- Advertising through social media and local press for volunteers to write ‘letters home’ from these men.
- Assigning a soldier’s name to each volunteer and giving them a brief biographical background.
- Printing the finished letters and posting them around town.
- Posting the finished letters on the museum’s social media.
- The letters were displayed in the museum.
“I found myself researching the weather as I wanted it to be real. I also researched the ship and the battle as they were unfamiliar… One final comment is that one of the other names turned out to be a relative on my husband’s side, I had no idea until I saw the final list of names.”
William Eddowes Green, WW1 soldier
- Engaging new audiences locally and much further afield
- Trialling micro-volunteering
- Involving the community
- Commemorating WW1 and those who died
“It brought home to me the utter futility of war, when they tried to send a man in poor health for basic training and he died before setting foot on foreign soil as a result.”
- Found biographies that were diverse and inspiring (and of local men) – reflective of various battles, continents and forces
- Researched social media accounts to help spread the word
- Developed volunteer briefing notes and drafted a sample letter
- Wrote and sent out press release and marketed to our volunteers
- Waited for letters to arrive
William Herbert Bambridge, WW1 soldier
- Twenty-nine ‘micro-volunteers’ – 25 of whom had not been involved with the museum previously
- Total cost (excluding staff time): £643
- Hundreds of social media engagements
- An invitation to run a workshop about the project at the SouthWestFed Conference in 2019
“I felt quite moved by my involvement with the project – my boy being only 15 when he joined up really touched me. I tried to get the feelings of that half boy, half man in the letter and found it quite a challenge to make it believable.”
Letters Home project – social media post
- A teacher, originally from Devizes but now teaching in Poland contacted us about taking part – indicative of the reach of the project.
- A nearby neighbour whose house was home to one of the soldiers who died created a window box to commemorate that soldier. As people stopped to look at it, she went out to talk to them. This included a local primary school teacher who took the letter writing idea back to her class.
- Local poppy seller told us that our letters were helping him to sell more poppies in town.
We also involved a diverse range of volunteers, many of whom hadn’t been involved with the museum before:
- Writer and poets / Devizes Writers Group
- Museum volunteers
- Ex-service men and women
- A class of primary school pupils
- A Bath Spa Museum Studies student
- Swindon College students
- Child of seven and a young person of 14
- People who had lost grandparents etc in the war and wanted to connect.
- People who wanted to take part in WW1 commemorations but could not find another way that fitted with their lives.
- People who were in full-time work
Window box created during Letters Home project
- Writing projects are great for engaging full-time working volunteers, where they can participate in the evenings/weekends.
- Social media reach can be huge and a great way to advertise for micro-volunteers.
- Involving the community in a project/exhibition gives them a sense of ownership and increases the likelihood of them visiting.
WW1 commemoration project in Devizes
Rachael Holtom, Development Officer, Wiltshire Museum