In November of 2013, all of the archives of France took part in the Grande Collecte, in which they asked everyone to look in their attics for letters, photographs, diaries, drawings and any other material from their ancestor's participation in the First World War. The result was a huge haul.
The newspaper, Le Figaro, together with a group of television companies and two quite gifted film makers, Andrés Jarach and Kévin Accart, has taken some of that material and created a very slick and attractive new website on World War One entitled Générations14 Mémoires intimes de la Grande Guerre. It links to the Mémoire des Hommes database of the some 1.3 million French who died in that conflict, which makes it repetitive for genealogical research, but it offers so much more.
Initially, one can type in a surname, then add more details to find a soldier from the Mémoire des Hommes, and to see the card on his death. Then, there is the possibility to upload documents relating to him, and to see what others have uploaded.
There are ten beautifully made short films about people, men and women, military and civilian, using some of the family archives gathered during La Grande Collecte. A nurse, a disfigured soldier, a wife and mother, a woman who wrote letters to soldiers, an artist soldier, a photographer, etc. -- the story of each told simply and honestly. This is not hero-worship or propaganda, it is a presentation of real lives and the cataclysmic effects the war had on them.
This site is not only collaborative, but calls itself a "participative documentary". It could help to link descendants and families, as well as serve as a growing online archive. If it lasts, and it is not clear how it will. This is, in effect, high-end marketing. Will it be gone in ten years? Will the contributions that people upload disappear? That would be a pity.
Enjoy it while it lasts.
©2015 Anne Morddel