Rare Books Exhibition

A new nation goes to war

Welcome to an exhibition of World War I material held in the Monash University Library Rare Books Collection


War was declared on 4 August 1914. Six years later the world was 65 million people fewer -- 15 million died in the war and an estimated 50 million from the influenza pandemic that followed. The world was left to mourn loss the like it had never seen before. At this time Australia was little more than a decade old as a nation, but Australians entered the world war with great fervour. Her soldiers fought alongside Great Britain and the Allies to protect the motherland, to uphold the moral right against an awesome aggressor, and to protect her shores from the threat of Germany if Britain were to fall.

To mark the centenary of World War I Monash University Rare Books is presenting an exhibition to commemorate such an important phase in Australias history. It is fitting for the University named after Sir John Monash, Commander of the Australian Corps, to mark the event.

The exhibition is an online showcase of materials held in Rare Books. It will run for four years. Each year new material will be added on a chosen theme. Many items have been digitised and placed in the Monash University Research Repository in order to provide substance to the images provided here. Other libraries and museums in Australia are putting on similar exhibitions and it is hoped the material and themes presented here will add to the fuller picture with the presentation of some unique documents and lesser known items.

Australia's participation in World War 1 played a role in bringing the colonies together as one and helped forge a national identity. This was a far removed war and the reasons for Australias involvement were not clear cut and after several generations it can be difficult to imagine and understand what the war was like for the troops and what life was like at home.

In terms of collective memory, one hundred years is a long time. Today's view of the war is made up of many diverse bits of information. There are photographs and official histories. There are historical interpretations by historians removed by one or two generations. There are personal accounts and letters written to loved ones. In this exhibition we have brought together contemporary publications, manuscript items and realia to present the war as it was taken in and understood by Australians at home, our soldiers overseas and our children so many years ago.

There are a number of Monash University projects outside the Library that may be of interest to visitors. These are listed at the Monash Great War Centenary and include the One Hundred Stories community history project.


The Virtual Exhibition **This page is best viewed in Firefox

World War 1 Resources

Monash University Library has acquired a rich collection of over 4,000 resources in print and online related to World War I. Many of these document the impacts of the Great War on Australia and the rest of the world. The Rare Books collection has curated this virtual exhibition showcasing a wealth of precious and rare sources including poetry and verse, music scores, cartoons, letters and memoirs, officers records and extensive ephemera related to this period in history. Please note that most of the Library's online databases are only available to enrolled Monash students and University staff.

The database The First World War: Personal experiences makes available digitised documents and ephemera including souvenirs, aerial photographs, correspondence and objects from the trenches, and is complemented by a trial to two further modules Propaganda and Recruitment and Visual Perspectives and Narratives. Another online source, Archives Unbound - World War I and Revolution in Russia, provides an Eastern European perspective on the war. Further vital primary sources in ProQuest Historical Newspapers and Trove: Digitised Newspapers, amongst others, make newspaper research from this period readily accessible.

Informit EduTV and Alexander Street Press World History stream online numerous history documentaries related to World War I that have previously played on free to air or pay TV. Music from the war period can also be listened to online via Alexander Street Press and dozens of music scores are held in Rare Books.

Important government sources reflecting the policy-making and resourcing of the war effort are found in Britains House of Commons Parliamentary Papers online and the printed Australian Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). The Cambridge History of the First World War is one of numerous authoritative reference sources available to researchers.

Finally, the Library collects many books, print and online, and these can be found using Search, the Librarys online catalogue. The Monash University Research Repository also makes available a select collection of photographs and images from the period.

The Library welcomes enquiries about the collection of materials on World War I.

One Hundred Stories remembers not just the men and women who lost their lives in World War 1 but also who returned to Australia.


Stephen Herrin, Rare Books Librarian

Jenny Casey, Subject Librarian, Matheson Library

Andrew Harrison, Monash University Research Repository

Rare Books Collection