LET’S GET DIGITAL!
Over the past five or six years, and with quite
a bit of effort, I wrote about three articles
that came out in the Czech Republic and beyond. I worked in construction, and travelled
a lot. There was less and less free time, and
so I relied on my extensive, personal library
and on my friends, both at home and abroad.
Naturally, my on-line references took advantage of the American digital archive Fold3.
com, to which I was a long-time subscriber.
It is an absolutely priceless source of information when it comes to American military
history, and not just American. I had accessed their archives two years ago, when over
the Christmas break, I was in the process of
completing an update to an article I wrote
for the French magazine ACES about Japanese ace Saburo Sakai. I was surprised to find
log entries accessible of Japanese combat
units on the Japan Center for Asian Historical Records (JACAR) site. The entries I went
through (I spent a few years studying the language) elevated the article by several levels,
and helped to break down some of the myths
surrounding this pilot.
But, that did not prepare me for what was
to come, when I began putting together two
articles for REVI magazine last January – the
first about the Western Front during the First
World War (Albatros D.III from Jasta 20 captured by the Dutch) and the second outlining
a similar scenario, but with a Soviet Curtiss
P-40 captured by the Finns in 1943. The
amount of material accessed, and the ease
with which it was done, took my breath away.
Dutch, Finnish, Swedish, German, Czech, Polish, Estonian, and especially Russian archives
contain an insane amount of information, the
contents of which can be searched with the
use of some key words. My former Russian
colleagues were somewhat derailed! There
is something in Russia digitalized? For free?
They didn’t want to believe it. In all honesty, archives in the EU are in this respect somewhat behind their Russian and American
INFO Eduard - DECEMBER 2020
The archives dating from the First World
War are a theme unto itself. Much of them,
that contain personal information, are only
accessible now, after a hundred years. The
amount of archived documentation from this
period, including photographs, continues to
Thanks to digitalization, it is not long ago that
the nurse that took care of Manfred Freiherr
von Richthofen after he was wounded in July
1917 could be identified. In the coming year,
you may look forward to articles from our
team of authors that will make much more
use of on-line databases, but will also continue to make use of the tried and true method
of researchers and authors, which is itself indispensable.
The world, at least the historical research
world, is much more digitalized than
I thought possible even a year ago. And this is
the idea that I wanted to express here. The
way that the pandemic has forced us to stop,
has enabled us to ponder over many themes
of life and of conducting business…for instance, how to make full use of the information
that is around us.
And by that, I don’t mean sitting in front of
a screen and inputting keywords to Google.
Even that requires a certain knowledge. I had
to make an effort with the archives…to find
them, register in the right databases, understand their structure and shortcomings, and
generally play around with them. Finding
quality data requires effort. But it also raises quality on the whole, and effectiveness.
It eliminates the uncertainties of ‘reinventing the wheel’ and fills in the blanks. I am
certain that this applies to all fields. Once
we emerge from our quarantines, let’s get