< From Islington to Egypt, Palestine and Syria
Evaluation for this project showed that it achieved a real impact, not only for the young people who took part, but also for the staff at Islington Museum, the volunteers who researched the history of the Finsbury Rifles, and the local community. This page includes highlights from the evaluation report by Rebecca Campbell-Gay, the museum’s Heritage Education Officer.
What the young people thought
After the workshops the participants were interviewed to see what they had got out of the week. This short film was put together using extracts from the feedback interviews.
Here are some quotes from the young people:
About the First World War away from the Western Front
- All I really knew was that there was a war or something between Germany and England and some other places and that was it.
- WWI was a lot more global than I thought it was, I thought it was just a European war.
- I didn’t know WWI was in Egypt, like I knew there were pharaohs and pyramids In Egypt… But I didn’t knew that WWI continued into Egypt.
- I didn’t really care about WWI before but I know that it means something now… knowing the details, the hardships of the individual stories… like Jock Christie and his act of bravery… it changes how I think about it.
Discovering real soldiers’ stories
- Each person did something different, like Jock did something heroic. I want to learn about what people did as a lot of people faced hardships…. (previously) you know people fought, but I hadn’t actually thought how it was for them.
- My experience learning about WWI in school it was much more serious and focused on the trauma and bad stuff… but what we learnt this week the soldiers that served they did it for their country and there were also good times in the army… like when Gibson climbed the pyramids.
- Often you think of soldiers as one… but you need to remember that each soldier has his own story and he’s not just part of a whole group.
- Jock for example, he was really committed to serving in the army, and had been injured twice but still came back to fight… and ended up getting a VC for bravery.
- This week changed how I thought about WWI in terms of the officers and how they treated the local Egyptian guides because when you learn about it (WWI) you don’t of course think about the British being wrong but then you find out they could be brutal towards the guides.
Learning new skills
- I would like to try more different forms of animation, continue to broaden my mindset.
- I learnt…’different forms of animation, something you don’t get to know in real life…… (it) makes me want to do more in this direction, try more animation in the future’ ‘this gives you a nice foundation.
- I think I want to be doing a lot more animation in my future.
- I enjoyed seeing the stories come to life… I’m now going to try and convince my art teacher for ‘A’ level to let me do something with animation for my project… I can say I’ve done it so I know how it do it.
- I would do it again, if it was like over the whole summer I would come every day if I could come.
- It’s inspired me to be more creative… to keep animating.
Thoughts from the museum service
From Islington Museum’s perspective, without this project funding we would not have had the resources or specific impetus to look into this particular history. As a service we had a general understanding of the Finsbury Rifles’ campaigns but had never focused on the regiment’s campaign in the Middle East. We had therefore never fully read their war diary, searched and catalogued our collections, researched other collections around the Finsbury Rifles or gone out locally to ask if members of the public had specific collections. This project therefore gave us the motivation to spend a year with dedicated volunteers and staff input researching the campaign.
We now have a fully accessible collection on the Finsbury Rifles’ campaign in Egypt, Syria and Palestine. In addition to the fully accessible resources, we also crucially have the in house expertise to ensure this collection and knowledge is accessible to the wider community.
Impact on volunteers
Not only museum staff but also project volunteers gained knowledge as part of this project. Islington Museum recruited five new volunteers as part of this project, as well as utilising two existing museum volunteers.
One volunteer commented in her end of project evaluation:
I have a greater understanding of the Egypt and Southern Palestine campaign as a part of WW1; its impact on and relevance to later & current political developments in the Middle East. I’ve also gained a greater understanding of the Territorial Force; its origins, its officers and men, how it was deployed, what made it distinctive and how this could be observed in the campaign in general and amongst the Finsbury Rifles in particular.
One volunteer who had particularly connected with the project, to the extent that she committed a day a week to the project for a year, mentioned that she particularly benefited from:
reading about the campaign from a parallel and expanded viewpoint (other battalion, division, military histories) and considering the historiography of the campaign. I also discovered the value of visiting places and exploring their context (Penton St , St Mark’s, Clerkenwell, Jock Christie’s home and church, Lt-Col Byrne’s home, former addresses of Finsbury Rifles etc.)
Impact on the local community
By focusing on a history of the First World War beyond the Western Front many people in our local community, who previously would have felt disconnected from the centenary commemorations, have been engaged in this local heritage; feeling connected to those who previously lived in Islington, yet temporarily experienced life within a completely different cultural context.
Click here for an evaluation report on this project.