Marisol Powell’s report on the website ‘Historiana Timeline in Postcards’

The link for ‘Historiana Timeline in Postcards’ drops you into a simple yellow page with a few paragraphs describing the purpose of the site, along with thirteen postcards to click into. Some titles are in English and others are written in German. Postcards are time capsules into people’s thoughts and cultural norms of the time. The typical uniforms and perspectives on the war are revealed in both the propaganda riddled art and grim realistic writing on the other side. The introductory paragraphs discuss how, as the war went on, the writings on the back of the postcards became bleaker. There was a clear dip in morale. The color scheme is immensely telling of this shift in behavior, with the first postcard in 1914 filled with bright yellows, reds, blues, and purple to a black and white image of the ruins from a fire in 1917. In order to read the contents of the postcard, you must click the image and then the highlighted blue source at the bottom. This seems to bring you to a white page. Sadly, these all contain broken links. I was shocked to find this and decided to look into the website Historiana itself.

With a quick Google search, I found the updated website with the now fixed link: A new introductory paragraph is written here with relatively the same message. Postcards from World War I function as conduits from the Front to civilians at home. The paragraph then delves into the history of the postcard and discusses the pre-printed messages that began to spring up, as well as the censorship of the men who wrote more realistic accounts of the horror on the battlefield. The images are valuable to historians and students alike who wish to glimpse a snapshot of the time. In the updated link, they carry many different languages rather than just British, American, and German. Plenty of Italian postcards grace this webpage.

There were different themes on display with many images containing religion or pulling upon the heartstrings in other photos. One of my favorite postcards was the embroidered ones. ‘1918’ was sewn into silk that was glued to the postcard with the different flags of the nations involved. This was a very popular souvenir amongst British soldiers but was not a cheap purchase due to the silk. Another unique postcard was a set of ten that created one image of a French soldier blowing a horn. Each card was from Ireland to France for soldiers to collect along the way. 

Patriotism was a common and popular thing to depict on postcards, selling especially well amongst the British soldiers and civilians alike. Men marching and doing valiant deeds, whether drawn or photographed, were at the center of many. Women were consistently depicted as countries as allegories for peace or patriotism. Other forms of women functioned as encouragement with depictions of their families eagerly waiting for their men to return home. This was particularly common in the array of sentimental Christmas Cards you could explore. One of the more particularly moving pieces of propaganda depicted a little girl praying for her dad to return safely with a small image of a generic man. 

Since the original link: is not working properly, I will be giving the strengths and weaknesses between both the old and new sites. Within the old site, what makes it truly unique is the ability to follow along with the changing moods of the postcards as the war progressed. They are in a linear timeline that helps someone unfamiliar with the war visualize the chipper propaganda to the bleakness of the rising slaughter. I think reading the contents of the postcard would have allowed a closer and more intimate look at people’s minds of the time. The broken links stop this further inquiry. I’m sure when things worked properly this page was immensely insightful and showed the gradual degeneration of morale on all sides as the death toll rose. As of right now, all that is available is seeing the images of some postcards in linear order.

In the new link, the list of cards is not in a structured timeline but instead just labeled as different themes such as religious postcards or sentimental ones. The strengths lie in the descriptions. When you click on an image, there is a bit of history and details about the particular card itself. It also sources where the postcards are from in different archives giving it reliability. 

I think both websites could have added more information, and the newer site could have added a more linear aspect to it. So far, there are only twenty-two examples on the new site when they could instead make proper categories to place an array of postcards in them, hopefully in chronological order. The first site boasted personal writings on the back of the cards that were never explored due to the broken links. I thought on the updated site they would have the personal writing, only to find historical descriptions. I feel like I was left out of the intimate conversation between people of The Great War. The new site could improve with the addition of the translated and transcribed writings of the former senders of the postcard.  

Maddie Baylor’s report on the website “The National Archives” 

Upon arriving at the home page of The National Archives website, the viewer is supplied with many options to choose from. The home page is organized into subcategories of data, all of which are grouped together based on related content. It is fruitfully decorated with pictures and artwork from the Great War, as well as highlighted captions that direct the reader’s attention. The front page is simplified and easily accessible, a helpful quality for someone who is not practiced in maneuvering through archival works. Each subdivision has a two-to-three sentence summary of what the tab includes. As a reader, I found that extremely useful, as some of the titles proved insufficient without context. The summaries are condensed so as to not overwhelm the reader, and I found them to be accurate descriptions of the content within. The homepage is simple to navigate, unlike some of the archives themselves.  

When a viewer clicks on one of the subdivisions, it redirects them into a different page. There, they find new resources and even more subcategories. It is very organized, but there is a learning curve. Everything on this website has a subcategory within a subcategory. It takes very little to get lost as you click on one link after another. There is an excess of information available, but my first time through the archives felt like falling down a rabbit hole. I would recommend that viewers sift through one section at a time, so as not to overwhelm themselves. Do not hop from page to page, for it is likely that you will get confused and have to start over from the beginning. The archives is a wonderful space to explore the Great War’s history and recorded artifacts, but the site can be rather off-putting. If you approach it in a systematic way, it will prove easier to navigate. Once the viewer understands the arrangement of the website, it is smooth sailing. 

The National Archives has a surplus of relevant information available for all interested parties. There is a field for everyone, no matter their media preference. If one enjoys nonfiction reading, there are collected documents and historical studies from countries around the world. If readers enjoy a more intimate experience, there are personal letters and diary entries available to peruse. If creative writing is appealing, there are impressive plays and graphic novels to explore. For the auditory viewer, there are plenty of podcasts and videos to avail oneself to. And if one is looking for an interactive experience, there is a blog built for community engagement, similar to this one! There is a space for anyone who wishes to further their education and do a little digging. The works available are extremely thought-provoking and motivating for further research. I would recommend this website to anyone wishing to expand their understanding of the Great War without a historical background. If you are unaccustomed to archival exploration, do not fear! There is a guide below to assist you. 

Due to the maze-like structure of this website, I will include little summaries below of what each section entails. The titles of the sections are in bold with a few sentences that explain what you will find within each one. This way, you do not have to struggle to find whatever material strikes your fancy. If you are interested in browsing through The National Archives, here is a cheat sheet:

A Global View: When you enter this section, you are met with a short list of our world’s continents and regions. You can choose whichever region you wish to learn more about, and that choice will redirect you to a second list. Here, you are once again asked to make a selection, this time from the small territories and countries within that continent. My first choice was to familiarize myself with Europe. From there, I decided to explore the country, Austria-Hungary. Upon my selection, I was able to explore Austria-Hungary’s timeline as it was impacted by the Great War. Each section provides readers with a concise overview, as well as small snippets of information explicitly relevant to the chosen country. It is a manageable space to explore WWI’s impact on all the regions of the world in an easily digestible way. 

Blog Posts about the First World War: This section allows for viewers to choose from an array of blog posts, the earliest of which dates back to a century ago. The posts seem well-informed and well-written as a whole. There is a lot of research and records included within the posts, all of which correlate to the war. I find that this section is good for interacting with the community and making connections through fellow history enthusiasts. 

Voices of the Armistice: The draw of this section is for those who enjoy an audible experience as opposed to the written word. There are three pages of podcasts which discuss a plethora of topics, many of which are diaries from soldiers who experienced the war. Hearing a first-hand account from war veterans can be more effective than reading an article about them. Each podcast is titled, which is useful for viewers who are interested in a particular subject. There are also podcasts which might prove to be upsetting in their content; that is yet another benefit for having labels. The podcasts have a condensed duration, so it will not monopolize your time. These podcasts provide viewers with plenty of information in a neat little package.  

Armistice and Legacy—a graphic novel on the First World War: After viewing some of the other sections, this one is a nice break from the overflow of information. In this space, you will find a bit of creativity intertwined with the facts of the war. It describes the process of students who are creating a graphic novel based off of the stories of WWI. It includes pictures of the artists as they outline and draw, as well as background information for the purpose of their project. This section is a great opportunity to see how the resources of The National Archive are being utilized by the community. 

Plays about South Asia and the First World War: Under this section you will find a handful of plays, all of which depict an important event that happened in the Great War. Each performance is around 15 minutes long, but they go by quickly as you get caught up in the actions of the story. You listen to the actors read their lines and can follow along with them through the use of the transcript. If you absorb information better by reading, this section kindly provides the script as well as the audio. The shows themselves are very easy to comprehend, and their content is unlike the rest of the resources in the archives. They focus on the way that the war impacted south Asian countries, specifically that of India. It touches on gender, race, and religion, all of which I believe are important to learn about. Their commentary on the war and its effects are both educational and enlightening. It is similar to the podcasts in its media form, but the unique content separates it from all other sections on this website. 

Letters from the First World War, 1915: This section holds the personal remarks of soldiers who were writing to comrades and loved ones. It is a deeply intimate place to hear the observations made by veterans in the war. Many letters allow you to listen to someone read it aloud, as though that person is speaking to you directly. They also have the transcript further down the page if you prefer to read it as the intended letter. This is a fascinating space to apply what we have learned from our novels to reality. I found the letter  “Injury: I look a pretty picture” to be in keeping with what we have read. It is a note from one injured soldier to a comrade on the front, which I could discern from the content of the message alone. When sifting through the different letters, one can distinguish the way that the writers wish to present the magnitude of the war. Depending on who the receiver is, they might desire a reassuring message versus an authentic one. This is a great section to read the first-hand accounts of soldiers in 1915, as well as a space to relate our lessons to real life. 

First World War podcasts and videos: Within this section you will find a hodgepodge of media relating to the Great War. It incorporates podcasts, plays, recorded conversations, poetry, and more, all of which connect to WWI. Some videos are direct accounts from the soldiers themselves, others are accomplished through the research of outside sources. It is a place for viewers to explore an assortment of multimedia options if that seems more intriguing than the written word. 

Find your ancestor in our First World War records: The title of this section is quite self explanatory. It is a guide to finding veterans of the Great War who might be an ancestor of yours. There are a great deal of links that describe the different positions that your ancestor might have held in the war, such as Army nurse or Corps officer. After clicking on a link, the site instructs you on how to uncover records of that person. It is very thorough and comprehensive in its explanation. If you are looking to learn more about an ancestor, this is the place to do so. Even if you don’t know any veterans, this is also a great space to view records of war soldiers and learn more about them individually.

Browse our online collections: In this section, one will find the most diverse resources available to viewers. It consists of documents, service records, maps, photographs, and anything else remotely related to WWI. All that is not covered in the other sections will be placed here. However, a majority of the links lead to a page that reads “Page Not Found.” Apparently, in order to access most of these records, you must go to the “archived version” of the page and search there. It seems superfluous to do so, but I imagine that whatever results people are looking for  must be worth the extra effort. 

First World War titles in the bookshop: Lastly, you will reach the archival bookshop. If you are looking to do some WWI shopping, The National Archives has provided you with a quick and easy place. There is jewelry, stationary, books, maps, and gifts for anyone you know who also takes an interest in history. This is a shop for all important eras, so make sure to hit the 20th century link when searching. Happy shopping!