Expert Nation: Universities, War and 1920s/30s Australia

Site Overview

Expert Nation is an ARC-funded Discovery Project that was set up to investigate the ways in which Australian university graduates with World War One experience had contributed to the formation of post-war Australia. Of particular theoretical interest was the relationship between the participation of graduates in the war and the production and dissemination of their expert knowledge, including the creation of new professions in the 1920s and 1930s.

One part of the project was the creation of a new national archives infrastructure, whose goal is to unlock and bring together the records of approximately six thousand men and women from the universities of Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Tasmania, Queensland and Western Australia with records from the Australian War Memorial and from personal collections.

The Expert Nation database is simply an extension of the original Beyond 1914 project, a community resource developed by the University of Sydney to provide access to digitized records such as photographs, letters and diaries as well as biographical information for over 2,500 men and women who served on foreign soil.with additional fields, workgroups and searches.

Heurist’s Role

The Beyond 1914 website – the website which gives a special view of the database relating to people associated with the University of Sydney – is now built from the Expert Nation database by applying a rules-based query to retrieve everything related to people tagged as University of Sydney. Other websites may be built later for the other Universities involved.

The required Javascript code to create the dynamically populated search pages is generated from the Expert Nation Heurist database and inserted directly into the site search page (‘Discover’).

The search required just a simple bit of code specifying the database and the saved search IDs to be rendered in the interface:

<code><iframe src="
&ll=WebSearch&searchIDs=139" width="100%" height="700" frameborder="0"></iframe></code> 

The URL can also be opened in a separate tab. Simple search boxes can be used by adding the search string entered as part of a Heurist URL which is then opened in an iframe or a new window. The js embedded code is available by right-clicking on a saved search.

Anyone who can build a WordPress (or other CMS) site should be able to do something similar, as Heurist generates the required Javascript code for you to paste into the CMS. The Expert Nation site, for example, was largely built by the lead historical researcher.

Grant Details

ARC grant details can be found here:
Actual project details can be found on the ARC database here (most easily found in advanced search with Pietsch as CI):

Project Details

Project ID:  DP160101109
Lead Investigator Name:  Tamson Pietsch
Investigators:  Tamson Pietsch; Julia Horne; Stephen Garton; Kate Darian-Smith; Edward Waghorne
Total Funding Amount:  $581,803
Scheme:  Discovery Projects
Funding Commencement Year:  2016
Number of Years Funded:  3
Administering Organisation:  The University of Sydney
State/Territory:  NSW
Participating Organisations:  The University of Melbourne
Fields of Research:  210303 – Australian History (excl. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History)
Socio-Economic Objective: 950503 – Understanding Australia’s Past

Project Summary

Knowledge, war, peace, and nation beyond 1914. This project aims to investigate how Australian university graduates with World War One experience contributed to the formation of the post-war Australian nation. It theorises the relationship between Australia’s participation in World War One, and the production and dissemination of expert knowledge, including the creation of new professions in the 1920s and 1930s. This project plans to shift the focus of analysis from the ANZACs as a generic category, towards specific groups of ANZACs and their education and training and impact on the development of Australia, placing knowledge and expertise at the heart of the national story in the interwar years. 

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