Imagining the Anzac experience using Twitter
Social media has redefined the Australian political landscape. Politicians are expected to have some (if not multiple) forms of online presence—a website, blog, Facebook page or Twitter profile. Australian voters rely on these pages and platforms as valid and up-to-date sources of critical information released by those charged with running the country.
Imagine if Twitter had been around 100 years ago at the time the Anzacs landed at Gallipoli. How would soldiers, nurses, and officers on the front line have shared their experiences? What would the politicians, media outlets and members of the public have said in 140 characters or less?
The museum is proud to be part of ‘ABCNews1915’, a unique and ground-breaking project co-ordinated by the ABC and Twitter Australia, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Anzac landing at Gallipoli. The ABCNews1915 Twitter account will share primary source material from over Twitter 60 accounts, reimagining the landing at Gallipoli reported by an uncensored social media.
The ABC invited the museum, the National Library of Australia and the Australian War Memorial to participate. For us, this meant delving into our collection looking for stories, parliamentary debates and other primary sources connected to the politicians of 1915. These stories then needed to be crafted into a series of messages which would be tweeted in ‘real time’ + 100 years, from Twitter accounts created for these key characters.
Empire has now been @ war for 8 months. We have seen many changing phases of greatest struggle of history #Anzac100 - @AFisherPM_1915 (Andrew Fisher, 5th Prime Minister of Australia)
Here in Aust. we have had to move heaven & earth to send away 40,000 men within eight and a half months - @JosephCook1915 (Joseph Cook, Leader of the Opposition)
Why are the men coming back by the hundred, stricken down with pneumonia? Because they are overworked to the point of exhaustion #Anzac100 - @AnsteyMP_1915 (Frank Anstey, Labor MP)
Campbell Rhodes, our Curatorial Officer, spent many hours researching material from 1915 Hansards, the official parliamentary record, as well as records and correspondence held by the National Library and the National Archives of Australia. It was a challenging task: reliable information about Anzac involvement at Gallipoli was not available for approximately two weeks after the landing. During that time, our politicians focused on other matters. This created, what seems today in our age of immediacy, a strange disconnect. The politicians’ frustrated tweets demanding more information and detailing parliamentary debates are at times worlds apart from those coming from soldiers, nurses and military commanders in the thick of the fighting.
Campbell soon discovered the War Precautions Act was a wealth of great material; there were words spoken that still have resonance today. There were also some wonderful passages in Hansard that he could imagine contemporary leaders saying, or even tweeting, a hundred years later. We’ll be publishing a specific blog post about the War Precautions Act later in April.
This project raises intriguing ‘what if’ questions about how readily the Australian parliament would have supported the Gallipoli campaign if Twitter had been feeding news and the terrible experience of war back to Australia in real time.
‘ABCNews1915’ is ultimately about bringing to life the reflections of a range of people who played a major role in the Gallipoli campaign, one of the most significant aspects of Australia’s history as a nation. By bringing historical sources to Twitter, we bring these voices into the digital age, and offer a contemporary audience an opportunity to engage in this seminal moment in Australian history.
Australian troops have indeed proved themselves worthy sons of the Empire #Anzac100 - @TheKing1915
Follow the ABCNews1915 Twitter account, as well as MoAD Canberra, from April 1 and check back on our blog for updates throughout the project.
ABC’s full Australia Remembers Gallipoli coverage is available at: abc.net.au/anzac/programming