In November 2006 I was invited to take part in an interdisciplinary symposium on ‘War and Memory in the 21st Century’ at the University of Calgary, USA. Following on from my original research for my DPhil (published as War and the British: Gender and National identity 1939-1991, London: 1998), I decided to examine the memories of the Second World War that had been entered on the BBC’s web project ‘The People’s War’. The stories that I found there led to a renewed fascination with not only the relationship between memory, gender and national identity, but with the ways that the internet acts as a new form of public space for people to record their personal memories and narratives of the war. The ‘Websites of Memory’ project is an attempt to investigate the wider relationship between the internet as a ‘site of memory’ and memories of war, conflict and reconciliation.
This project is still in its very early stages but appears to have the potential to be an exciting area of interdisciplinary research. I am currently co-authoring an article on the relationship between the internet, memory and history, and have been invited to present papers on this subject at Mississippi State University, USA, the University of Oldenburg, Germany and John Moores University, Liverpool, in 2009. Informal discussion with colleagues working in a variety of different academic disciplines, together with colleagues working on the presentation of public memory in museums and media organisations has demonstrated both the breadth of interest in this area of research, and the wide variety of related areas that individuals and groups are currently working on. These include, in addition to research being carried out on memories of the First and Second World War on the internet, research on the use of the internet as a site for memory and reconciliation in Cyprus, the representation of conflict by Palestinian and Israeli groups, and use of the social networking site Facebook as a site for remembrance of the Falklands/Malvinas War. The high quality of this research, combined with the variety of disciplines that this work is being carried out within (history, anthropology, media and communication studies, literary and cultural studies) suggests that an interdisciplinary research network, with the aim of bringing scholars, researchers and curators from different disciplines and institutions together to share ideas, findings and approaches, would be the most fruitful way to develop this project.