Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum (SOFO) is looking for people to bring their stories and objects relating to the Second World War to Their Finest Hour Collections Day – a digital collections day at the museum in Woodstock on Saturday, 01 April 2023 from 11.00am to 3.00pm.
The event is part of a nationwide campaign organised by Their Finest Hour, a team based at the University of Oxford and funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, which is collecting and preserving the everyday stories and objects of the Second World War.
As these stories are fast fading from living memory, it is vital that they – and the wartime objects that often accompany them – are preserved for future generations.
At the Digital Collection Day, stories about your family’s wartime experience – and associated objects such as diaries, letters, medals, journals and ration books – will be recorded, digitised, and then uploaded to the Their Finest Hour online archive, which will be free-to-use and launch in June 2024.
To encourage even more people to drop in and share their stories, the SOFO Museum will waive its normal admission fee on the day – entry will be free to all on 01 April.
SOFO will also be hosting a range of other Second World War-themed events and exhibitions on the day. Visitors will be able to enjoy displays from the 1940s living historians inside the museum, a recently installed replica of an Anderson Shelter, as well as several exhibitions.
Attending Living history groups will include Winstan (Churchill), Doing Their Bit (Home Front), Oxfordshire Home Guard and Ham & Jam (Second World War British Airborne troops).
Collector John Noott’s expansive exhibition, The Art of World War II, will showcase a diverse range of perspectives of the era, all produced during the conflict, while the Aces High gallery will have a range of impressive prints – including many signed by veterans – up for sale.
Visitors can talk to museum staff on the day about donating items to the museum’s own collection if they wish, but the focus will be on digitisation – photographing objects, recording stories and scanning documents – so original items can remain with their families.
Dr Stuart Lee, Their Finest Hour project leader, said, “We know from previous projects that people have so many wonderful objects, photos, and anecdotes which have been passed down from family members which are at risk of getting lost or being forgotten. Our aim is to empower local communities to digitally preserve these stories and objects before they are lost to posterity.”
The project team is especially interested in collecting contributions from people from underrepresented backgrounds to increase the diversity of people benefiting from Second World War heritage.
With often limited parking in Woodstock, Blenheim Palace will also be kindly supporting this event, offering free parking to those attending to share their stories. The museum is just a short walk into town through the palace’s Woodstock Town gate.