Get involved with South Australians in France

A search is commencing in South Australia to collect historic First World War objects.

During the World War One, thousands of South Australian men and women contributed to the war effort in France and on the Western Front.

To mark the centenary of the 1918 victory and to recognise and understand the enduring connections formed between France and South Australia, Flinders University’s College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences is organising a public event titled South Australians in France.

Over the next five months, the South Australians in France team will engage with metropolitan and regional South Australians to unearth the extraordinary stories based on the First World War objects that they hold.

It will culminate in a public event in Adelaide on 23 and 24 February 2018.

“At this event, we will present the most exciting objects we have found, and people will be encouraged to share their stories, too,” says Dr Fathi.

The public event, which will involve French scholars alongside Australian experts, will bring to life the revealing histories of many of the objects held by the South Australian descendants of First World War veterans.

Dr Romain Fathi, Lecturer in Australian History and an affiliated researcher at the Centre d’Histoire de Sciences Po in Paris.

“The event is a kind of academic antiques roadshow which will bring together South Australians, historians, material culture specialists and museum curators to tell the hidden stories behind these century-old objects that are often cherished as family heirlooms,’ says project leader Dr Romain Fathi.

The South Australians in France team is interested in items such as war souvenirs, as well as personal items of memorabilia, currently held privately that relate to the experience of the war service of South Australian women and men.

Dr Fathi says just as 21st century travellers face choices about what memorabilia to keep and what to throw away, those who left Australian shores to fight in France during the First World War had to make decisions about the material objects that eventually accompanied them on the journey home to Australia.

The South Australian researchers are hoping that their work will unearth the century-old items that found their way to the state in the days and months following the end of the First World War.

“When you return from travels abroad, how do you decide what to bring home with you? Are your mementoes small enough to slip into a coat pocket or so large that they have to be shipped home in a trunk?

“Once you arrive home, do you box them up and lock them away in the garden shed? Or perhaps they take pride of place on your bookshelf for years to come?”

“Some objects, no doubt, ended up in garden sheds while others were placed carefully in china cabinets for safe-keeping.”

Lapel badge showing General Pau, President of the French Red Cross, 1918. Available from Special Collections Badge Collection, Flinders University of South Australia Library. Photo by Romain Fathi, 2017. Used with permission.

South Australians in France has the financial support of generous benefactors such as the French Consulate in Adelaide, the City of Unley and Flinders University. The Project is further supported by the Government of South Australia through the Office of the French Strategy in Department of the Premier and Cabinet and The Hon Martin Hamilton-Smith MP, Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, and the Anzac Day Commemoration Fund, Veterans SA.

The Embassy of France to Australia, the Alliance Française d’Adélaïde and Creative France in South Australia also support the project

How can you get involved?

The South Australians in France team would love to hear the story of your First World War object. Or we can help you to reconstruct its story by uncovering the origin of the object, its uses and its relevance to the First World War.

World War One trench art, badges, diaries, pictures, coins, cards, calendars, postcards, letters, parts of uniforms and all forms of memorabilia or souvenirs are among the objects we would love to hear about, to remember South Australian service in France.

Be a part of this exciting project, first by ‘liking’ or ‘following’ our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SAinFrance/

Then post a picture of your WWI object and add a brief description of its history.

You can also contact Dr Romain Fathi, and Project and Research Assistant Dr Annmarie Reid by email at: southaustraliansinfrance@flinders.edu.au

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