Public Libraries to Commemorate First World War with Digital War Memorial

Libraries in England will work with local communities and national partners on a Digital War Memorial

26 February 2014—SCL has been awarded a grant of £196,110 from the National Lottery supported Grants for the Arts: libraries fund through Arts Council England to support a range of projects that will enable community groups to create their own unique responses to the First World War.  With the help of local artists, libraries’ rich and diverse collections will be used to stimulate reflection and discussion and provide the starting point for deeper engagement and artistic interpretation. The local projects will all have a digital dimension in order to reach as wide an audience as possible

SCL will work with We Are What We Do, the organisation that created Historypin to create a dedicated public library area within Historypin for this project.  SCL will also be working with British Library and Imperial War Museum to encourage as many people as possible to actively engage in the commemoration.

From March 2014 public libraries will commission artists to work with community groups on ten pathfinder projects in Devon, Lancashire, Leeds, London Borough of Brent, Newcastle, Norfolk, North Tyneside, Rochdale, Staffordshire and Stockton upon Tees. The first digital content from the pathfinder projects will be live for the start of the commemorations in August 2014.  As part of the project, a Digital Curator will be appointed whose role will be to oversee the digital content created by the 10 pathfinder projects and create something new and compelling which brings the local stories together into something which has national resonance and impact.

Janene Cox, SCL President, said: “This project will connect the current strengths of libraries in the area of digital information with the opportunity to develop creative digital content and increase the confidence of library staff to engage with this fast developing aspect of cultural activity.  It’s another great example of how libraries collaborate nationally through SCL to bring real local benefit to local communities.”

Brian Ashley, Director of Libraries at Arts Council England, said: “The Arts Council is pleased to support this exciting and innovative project that will use the vast collections in libraries and engage a diverse range of community groups. Alongside a range of other projects it will make a significant contribution towards the WW1 commemorations. Like libraries themselves, the project will bridge generational and social divides and inspire debate and learning.”

Nick Stanhope, Chief Executive of We Are What We Do, said: “We are very pleased to be working with SCL on this project.  We know that the content created by the library projects will be of high quality and will inspire even more communities to think about this significant centenary and to share their own reflections through the website.”

Public libraries will coordinate the local pathfinder projects, commission the artists and organise the exhibitions and performances that result from the projects.  The projects involve a wide range of art forms, including music, dance, drama, and visual arts. Libraries will upload the digital content aspect of the projects to the website and promote the content through social media.

The pathfinder projects and the development of the dedicated area within Historypin will provide a framework for all library services in England to develop their own local projects throughout the commemorations of 2014 – 2018.

This project adds to the portfolio of national projects that are managed by SCL.  It further demonstrates how public libraries can deliver major arts projects and form strategic partnerships with other major national organisations and agencies.

For more information contact:

Elizabeth Elford, SCL Advocacy Manager, +44 (0) 7891 056114,



Notes to editors:


  1. The Society of Chief Librarians (SCL) is a local government association made up of the chief librarian of each library authority in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. SCL takes a leading role in the development of public libraries, through sharing best practices, advocating for continuous improvement on behalf of local people, and leading the debate on the future of the public library service.
  2. We Are What We Do is a not-for-profit behaviour change company with over nine years experience in shifting the everyday behaviours of individuals and tackling a series of major social and environmental issues. We create mainstream products and services, which are useful or desirable in their own right and facilitate positive behaviours, meaning they can have a major, sustainable impact on the issues we address.
  1. Arts Council England champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to digital art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2010 and 2015, we will invest £1.9 billion of public money from government and an estimated £1.1 billion from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country.