„An Meine Völker! Der Erste Weltkrieg 1914-1918“. Exhibition at Österreichische Nationalbibliothek in Wien

The impressive magma of World War One documents is now flowing and erupting from the biggest institutions and archives on the occasion of the fast approaching deadlines of the Centenary. A reliable picture of this boiling magma is what a visitor can encounter in the new exhibition „An Meine Völker! Der Erste Weltkrieg 1914-1918“ (“To my people. The First World War 1914-18”) hosted in the State Hall of the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek. Here are some of the astonishing figures of this exhibition curated by Manfried Rauchensteiner: 52,000 posters 38,000 photographs, postcards, diaries, approximately 840,000 newspaper pages from the years 1914 to 1918 (now digitized, keep an eye on also on Europeana Collections) and documents that stand probably for one of the biggest and richest appointments of this first year of the Centennial. Photography plays a relevant role in the layout, even if a great part of the space is dedicated to original documents. And like all respected exhibitions, equal attention is devoted to front life and daily life, to men, women and children. The huge amount of material now made available by Austrian National Library‘s predecessor, the Imperial Court Library, is the result of a long process of archiving that started already in 1914.

Once again the visitors and scientific community are faced with a crucial problem (maybe an opportunity) and namely the overload of information and documents. This is the idea and the feeling that remain with us after viewing such impressive collection of memories. There’s nothing new under the sun. It’s not always a matter of quantity/quality. How can we deal with this overload of memories? Which kind of strategies should we consider to walk in this consolidated magma? The time is ripe, in this global scenario of the First World War centenary, and people are supposed to give an answer also to these questions or at least to try not to escape from their thorny question marks.


Österreichische Nationalbibliothek
Prunksaal Josefsplatz 1
1010 Wien
Tel. +43 1 534 10 / oeffentlichkeitsarbeit@onb.ac.at
The exhibition is open from 13th March to 2nd November 2014.

"The First World War and the languages", a conference in Paris. (La Première Guerre mondiale et la langue : approches croisées).

Few months ago we spread an interesting CfP, which resulted now in an international symposium to be held in Paris on 12th and 13th June 2014. Organized by the Sorbonne University and the Center for historical Studies Sciences-Po, the conference gathers scholars from different research fields, granting so an interdisciplinary approach to the discussion. Historians, linguists and specialists on literature will focus on the development and the changes in the French language, as well as on the other related European languages during the Great War. Two central questions are at the center of the interest of the symposium. On the one hand the role played by the WWI in the history of the French language, starting from the assumption that the former deeply shaped this latter and questioning as a consequence the interconnection between war and language histories. On the other hand all this will enable the scholars to finally hold in due consideration the history of French languages during the 19th and 20th centuries, which was up to now mainly neglected.

Representing a fascinating and yet till unexplored laboratory for some of the central themes of the contemporary linguistic (just think about the beginning of the sociolinguistic on the background of essential reconfigurations even of the social relationships) and providing an enormous amount of materials (both oral and written witnesses), the Great War represents for the linguists a privileged research field. Besides the already discussed question about the argot of the trenches in France and in the other countries, the conference aims to open new horizons discussing many central topics, concerning for example the periodization of the language history and the demarcation line eventually represented by the WWI; or concerning the ways of speaking and the neologisms, the contacts and contaminations between different languages or the specialist vocabulary of the military or technical language of the war, and again the written language and the topic of education.

Considering all these aspects of the “linguistic phenomenon” during the Great War, the conference will disclose also its historical and cultural implications, promoting so the discussion among a wider public and increasing the contact and exchange between historians and linguists. The full program is available in French

The First World War in Music: "A War Requiem" by John Herbert Foulds

J.H. Foulds  (1880 - 1939)
In our very small and limited research among composers who dedicated their attention and works to the First World War, it seems that a kind of "British wave" is somehow slowly emerging. This means that in that island we detect some prominent cases but of course this does not mean that the history of First World War in music is all there. And after the "Pastoral Symphony" by Ralph Vaughan Williams, today we share with our readers the case of John Foulds, author of "A World Requiem" (also known as Op. 60, according to the sequence of his compositions) a symphonic work crowded with soloists and choirs. This work was conceived in the years 1919-1921 immediately after the end of the Great War and ideally combines the memory the dead of the all the belligerent countries and the deep liturgical sense of all requiems. Foulds’ War Requiem is based on texts from the Bible, from the Christian writer and preacher John Bunyam and from the mystic Indian poet and saint Kabīr. An interesting article on this work was released by The Independent (you can find it here).

The performance we listened to is the one issued by Chandos Recordings in 2008, ninety years after the end of the war. Today it seems that a huge work of knowledge around the music of and on WWI is strongly required. We are not still able to see something significant around. If you disagree with this impression and you know something that is worth a recommendation, don’t forget to share it with us like some of you are already doing on Twitter. In the meanwhile, we can count also on Youtube to listen part of this work of John Foulds.

First World War one day itineraries through Italy. Suggestion no. 15: Col Fenilon and Col Moschin

Monte Grappa #3

Roman Column on Col Moschin

This new itinerary enables the visitor to discover a place, which became legendary during the late spring 1918, namely Col Moschin. The Italian front line ran at that time from Monfenera up to the eastern edge of the Grappa range, where the strongholds of Col del Miglio, Col Fenilon and Col Fagheron dominated the Brenta river Valley and its entry into the plain, representing therefore a critical point. The positioning of the Italian troops was here particularly difficult, since they were holding on to the mountain areas closest to the plains, along the cliff edge. In the early morning of June 15th the so called Battaglia del Solstizio started with the intent to attack from Grappa and reach via Vicenza the plain. At the beginning the Austrian assault, protected by the fog, succeeded in breaking through the front lines and in conquering the main enemy’s outposts. But already the day after a small Italian unit got back all the positions. The reconquest of Col Moschin was assured by a raid of the Arditi, whose feat is still commemorated with a roman column and a plaque on its summit. The itinerary is very simple, only during the winter it could be difficult because of the snow on the top. With an altitude gap of more the 1.000 meters, it takes about 5 hours all together.

The starting point is the hamlet of San Nazario, at the beginning of the Brenta river Valley. Since the roads are really very narrow, we suggest to drive immediately to the post office and to park in front of it.

Walking down, back to the central street, and turning right you’ll reach in few meters the starting point of the path n. 38, which lies again on your right and is signaled with an informative board. Follow it along a small river bed till you reach the real track which starts with a small bend on the right. The first part of the path is simply incredible since it consists in a single stony ladder which climbs with hairpin turns the steep slope. It’s hard to conceive today the hand work required to build all those steps, used during the Great War to bring supplies up to the front line, probably in particular heavy artillery by mules. The walk presents no difficulties, even if it’s quite demanding due to the gradient of the path. You’ll have however the chance to rest if you take the time to have a look at a small hut you skirt, at the view on the Valley below and above all at the observation points and the rests of small recoveries along the ascent. Almost at the top of the slope, after a small niche, in a grove of broad-leaved trees, pay attention on your left: you will recognize the entrance of a tunneled trench. You need a torch to visit it and pay attention in walking in it: the exit with the observation point on the valley is as beautiful as dangerous because it leans over a sheer overhang and has no protections.

The path climbs up, runs along bushes and another majolica niche and reaches then a small road. Just cross it and follow again the path n. 38 which leads to the pastures on the top. If you look at your left, you’ll immediately see the metal cross on the top of Col Fenilon (1.327 m.), from where you can look at the landscape ranging from the Asiago plateau, on the other side of the Brenta river Valley, to the Cima Grappa. Leaving behind your back this latter, you will see the near Col Moschin. Before reaching it, however, we suggest you to cross the meadow and to rest at the near Rifugio Alpe Madre, where you can eat something and maybe natter with the hosts. The Rifugio lies exactly halfway, between the two summits. As soon as you are ready, go on and walk up to Col Moschin (1.279 m.) where you can see the roman column in memory of the battle of June 1918 and have a look at the surrounding landscape. The way back follows the road just below, runs again along the Rifugio Alpe Madre and then rejoins the above mentioned intersection with path n.38, which descents on your left

Now online the "Albo d'Oro" (Golden Book) of Italian soldiers fallen during the First World War

Military sanctuary of Nervesa
The news we're now pointing out is related to Italy and to a recent initiative run by the Ministry of Defense. Nevertheless we think it can somehow rise interest at an international level (without forgetting that World War I Bridges is an Italian platform that chose the English language only to easily build bridges and share knowledge around the First World War and its Centenary). It's now available on the portal of the Ministry (www.difesa.it) the updated database of all the fallen soldiers of the Great War. Thanks to an accurate and friendly information retrieval system, users will be able to investigate around a given soldier: place and date of birth, place date and cause of death, special decorations, military unit and degree. The initiative can be connected with the digitization of the 28 volumes of the "Albo d'Oro" published by the so called Ministry of War at that time. In the next future similar accuracy is announced in providing reliable information about the burial places.