The virtual exhibition “The First World War and the End of the Habsburg Monarchy” is an endeavour to document the years of the war in as broad and multifaceted way as possible. For this reason the Schloß Schönbrunn Kultur- und Betriebsges.m.b.H. in cooperation with the Dokumentation lebensgeschichtlicher Aufzeichnungen (Documentation of Biographical Records) at the University of Vienna sent out a collective appeal concerning the everyday history of the First World War. The public should thus be given the opportunity to take an active part in the show and augment it with a piece of their own family history.
In recent months hundreds of documents from people’s life stories – personal memoirs, diaries, letters, field postcards, photographs, drawings and notes – have been sent in to the exhibition team. In the sections “Memories” you can find a selection of the edited and contextualised sources.
Each of the memory items being presented now tells its own story and conveys valuable insight into everyday life during the war years. New perspectives are being opened up, reflecting the lot and living worlds of individual people. Thus diaries and field postcards not only tell of soldiers’ experiences on the front, but give us an idea of their dreams and longings – and show how the initial war feverusually turned into hopes for a rapid end to the war.
On the other hand, the effects the war had on life on the home front are illustrated by the notes and records of those staying at home. Thus a Viennese woman continuously documented the body weight of her family members, thus giving touching proof of the consequences of the shortages of food caused by the war.These personal testimonies are supplemented by numerous other documents – ration cards, recipe collections, war loans, souvenirs from war-aid actions and propagandist publications – which, taken in isolation, reveal the extent to which the events of the First World War penetrated everyday life.
Because of the committed participation of the many lenders, it has been possible not only to visualise the meta-narrative of history but also the personal living worlds of those people who are often bracketed out of normal history books. At this point we would like to express our heartfelt thanks for the many items sent in. This also applies to the Dokumentation lebensgeschichtlicher Aufzeichnungen and the Sammlung Frauennachlässe(Collection of Women’s Legacies) at the University of Vienna, which we were also placed at our disposal for the “Memories”.
Because of its specifically Austrian character and the pieces frequently written in dialect, the “Memories” section is being presented only in German. We dispensed with an English translation, since for many documents their individual tone would have got “lost in translation.