Issue 28 -- April 1996

Australian War Memorial


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The Australian War Memorial is a unique institution, the product of the intensity with which Australians felt the impact of the First World War. Three hundred thousand Australians served overseas with the armed forces. Over 60,000 died. This was Australia's first great initiation into the carnage of war.

The Memorial, originally the brainchild of Charles Bean who later was Australia's Official Historian, now commemorates Australian loss and suffering through all wars. Partly this is through ceremonies centred around a commemorative courtyard which includes, on its inscribed Roll of Honour, the 102,000 names of those who have died serving with Australian forces in war. Since 1993, the 75th anniversary of the Armistice, the Commemorative Area has also included the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier.

But Bean wanted the Memorial to achieve 'commemoration through understanding'. It was to be at once a museum of the 'relics' of Australian experience in the war, and an archive of the documents of Australian forces. After the war, much effort went into collecting private records as well -- the greatest organised program of collection building in Australia's history. Today the Memorial represents the centre and the heart of Australian military history in every sense. It is the place where every researcher must begin, and it is the place where any member of the public must come to understand the Australian experience of war.

In the early 1980s, the Memorial took stock of the state of military history research in Australia. It found the results less than encouraging. The subject was out of favour within academia, with a gulf existing between its many non-professional and its few academic practitioners. There was a danger that Australia's military history would become a mothballed set of relics of the past, making it difficult, if not impossible, for the Memorial to speak to new generations lacking direct experience of war. The response was to set up the Australian War Memorial Research Grants Scheme, begin a series of annual history conferences, and to publish the Journal of the Australian War Memorial.

The Journal was designed to serve both researcher and member of the public, by providing a place where the best new research could be published and at the same time providing it in a form which was interesting and palatable to the general public. This combination of functions proved rather ambitious, and over the years the Journal became more academic in nature. It is now a fully refereed academic journal (the only one in its specific subject area), and it aims to publish the very best new work in the field of Australian military history.

The term 'Australian military history' is one which we at the Memorial define broadly, to include everything from operational military history to the impact of war on Australian society. In editing the Journal, I welcome comparative studies, as well as articles on subjects as varied as war art (see this issue), military technology and the political and diplomatic history of Australia's wars.

For thirteen years, the Journal has appeared twice yearly, printed on A4 paper and copiously illustrated in both colour and black and white. The last printed issue was no. 27 (October 1995). Now it enters a new phase of its history, as an electronic journal, disseminated over the Internet via the Memorial's World Wide Web homepage, without any hard-copy printed edition at all.

In bringing the Journal to the Internet, we hope to achieve several things. One motivation, inevitably, has been the need to cut publishing costs. But I see more positive benefits too.

First, access to the Journal will be improved in the long term. Unfortunately, some readers of the hard-copy edition will not be able to move with us to the electronic version, because they do not have access to the Internet. On the other hand, many of them may find, in two or three or five years, that the 'net has become part of their lives, too, and that they can rejoin us. Let us hope so. In the meantime, many others will be able to read the Journal of the Australian War Memorial for the first time. These readers I welcome most warmly.

Secondly, we hope over time to be able to add features to the Journal which are only possible in the electronic format. Like many other publishers, we are at an experimental stage now; I would welcome comments on the way in which we have set the Journal up for this first electronic issue, and on features or changes which you would like to see.

In every other way, the Journal will remain exactly as it has been. It will continue as an anonymously refereed academic journal, with two 'issues' a year, to simplify citation. Once made available, issues will continue to be available indefinitely. For the foreseeable future, access will be free of charge.

One problem with electronic publication is that page numbering virtually ceases to have any meaning, as it will vary from one user to the next. For that reason, we have chosen to number paragraphs, not out of any excess of bureaucratic spirit but simply to provide some unchanging tag to which citations may be tied.

This is an exciting moment for the Journal. In the age of 'information' explosion but also of dwindling library budgets, electronic publication now offers a greater opportunity for the exchange of ideas than has ever existed before. I believe that this opportunity will very soon overcome the lingering doubts some historians feel about the validity of publication in this form. We invite your support for the new, electronic Journal of the Australian War Memorial.

Peter Londey
Editor

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