An ambitious project will add a new dimension to the memorial plaques which line Kings Parks' Honour Avenues, with a smart device app to be created which will share the personal stories of Anzac soldiers commemorated by the plaques.
Against the backdrop of the Anzac Centenary, a team of technological and historical experts from The University of Western Australia will join the Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority and the Returned and Services League to bring the project to life.
Kings Park has more than 1600 memorial plaques honouring service personnel who enlisted in Western Australia, died during service, and were buried overseas. The project will see a smart device app developed to document their personal stories, placing individuals in the context of military campaigns, regiments and historical events.
Professor Julian Partridge, of UWA's School of Animal Biology and Oceans Institute, conceived the idea during a visit to Kings Park in 2014.
"Walking along Kings Park's Honour Avenues, lined with memorial plaques to our fallen soldiers, I wondered: What are these soldiers' stories? Could new technologies connect us with their personal histories?" Professor Partridge said.
He said the project would build a database of information accessible through a smartphone or tablet app that delivered an engaging experience to Kings Park visitors. Users would scan a memorial plaque with their mobile device's camera to identify the soldier and reveal their personal history.
The information would be accessible from any location via the app or a web browser, although a more complete experience would be achieved by visiting Kings Park.
Professor Partridge said that by combining history with technology the project would provide a more personal and emotive experience and would enhance the work of the Honour Avenues Group (Highgate RSL sub-branch) responsible for maintenance, documentation and upkeep of memorial plaques.
Professor Jenny Gregory, head of UWA's Centre for Western Australian History, said it was a significant project.
"This is an important project; it contributes to our understanding of the Anzac legend, connects us with past events and, most significantly, commemorates the sacrifices Western Australians made during major international conflicts,' Professor Gregory said.
Key to the project's success would be the invitation of historical and personal contributions from members of the public. Documenting the personal aspects of soldiers' lives relied on input from those who remembered them: families and friends.
"Involving the public directly as ‘citizen historians' in the gathering of historical information is an exciting aspect of this project," Professor Gregory said. "Family histories will become part of our shared heritage, and members of the public will have the opportunity to work directly with UWA researchers."
The project team brings together a number of groups operating within UWA: historical expertise from the Centre for Western Australian History; technical development by the Centre for Learning Technology, led by director Michael Wheatley; and citizen science and project management experience from Professor Partridge.
The Kings Park Honour Avenues App is one of several UWA projects in a pilot to involve the community in research through crowdsourcing, with some projects seeking community participation and other projects funding of the research. Members of the public who wish to be involved can register their interest through the project website: HonourAvenues.com