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VCU Archaeology

Virtually Curating the ‘Greatest Generation’

by Bernard K. Means, Director, Virtual Curation Laboratory/Virtual Curation Museum

In honor of our nation’s veterans and active duty personnel, I wanted to highlight a couple of artifacts associated with the European and Pacific battlefronts of World War II.  Both artifacts come courtesy of high school history teacher James Triesler, who is a Research and Technology Teacher at Clover Hill High School in Midlothian, Virginia. The Virtual Curation Laboratory team has presented programs for his students that highlight the possibilities of virtual curation for preserving the past—and not just the distant past of our ancestors of long ago, but more recent events that still reverberate today. Our interactions with James Triesler and his students are mutually beneficial, helping us hone our educational and outreach efforts.

Clover Hill High School students look at printed plastic replicas of artifacts and animal bones.

Clover Hill High School students look at printed plastic replicas of artifacts and animal bones.

Mr. Triesler also maintains a small museum largely devoted to World War II and works diligently to preserve and promote the legacy of this global conflict.  His students are working diligently to preserve documents from the war, especially letters, and to provide access to these records at his web site It Took a War: A Collection of World War II Letters.

Despite its small size, Mr. Triesler’s museum has a wide array of material items that evoke various aspects of the second World War.  We in the Virtual Curation Laboratory have scanned just a few of these items to date, but plan on creating digital models of more in the near future.  One of these items is a fragment of a German bomb recovered from the ruins of London, which was subject to an intensive bombing campaign designed to terrorize and demoralize the British.  The London Blitz was horrific, but unsuccessful in discouraging the British from fighting–and helping defeat–the German army.

German bomb fragment from the London Blitz.

German bomb fragment from the London Blitz.

Another item we scanned comes from a Japanese soldier’s letter kit.  This small, mostly wooden item would have been inked to leave the soldier’s name on letters that he presumably wrote home.

Japanese soldier's name seal.

Japanese soldier’s name seal.

We look forward to our partnership with Mr. Triesler, and aiding him with his efforts to keep alive the memory of those who valiantly fought to defend our country, as well as to never forget who they were up against.

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