Eight of the best
Volume 46, Number 5, May 2008
Who do we think we are? The second annual “Who Do You Think You Are?” Live (WDYTYA) show takes place at the very beginning of May (if you’re reading this before the event which takes place May 2—4 there’s still time to get two tickets for the price of one, call 0871 230 1091 and quote medal24l!). Last year’s event was a huge success in terms of visitor numbers (20,000+ through the door) and whilst it wasn’t outstanding commercially as our products were too specialist for many people, it did give us an important insight into the interest that lies in family history and the potential that that might have for the medal world. For years we’ve been attending the medal and militaria shows, building up a good rapport with the visitors and making some lasting friendships—such events have, over the years, proved very successful for us and now we are a regular feature at many of them—as much an expected attendee as any medal dealer. WDYTYA was a different proposition; suddenly we were confronted by literally hundreds of people all eager to know more about medals and their family’s history. We chatted to them, gave them the benefit of our “wisdom”, encouraged them to add their medals to Medaltracker.com, sold Medal Yearbooks and Medal News subscriptions and, after it was all over, got to thinking just how we could appeal to them even more and, perhaps, get even more of them interested in medals. To that end we have now produced a new DVD entitled What Grandad Won in the War—a very basic guide to the medals and awards of World War I. It’s not designed to appeal to the likes of our regular readers—it’s quite simplistic and all of the information contained within it will be well known to us all, however, as we discovered last year what is well known to us (like where to find the naming on a medal for example) is not so well known to the novice—this DVD fills the gap and we are looking forward to launching it at Olympia. However, all may not run as smoothly as we hoped, it seems that the organisers of the event have recognised that the family history market is more diverse than they first thought and this year they have, for some reason, decided to have “one event, three shows” with WDYTYA running alongside Military History Live and Archaeology Live—all under the banner of The National History Show. Why they’ve done this can only be guessed at but one assumes the decision is commercial with them being able to appeal to a wider range of dealers by branding the event more specifically—after all, if you are a medal dealer then attending Military History Live may well have more appeal than simply attending a family history show and we are sure that many of our readers will agree. From our point of view we’re not so sure. The main reason for us attending was to get to new people and we fear that the military branding may turn a lot of people off—well over 60 per cent of the visitors to our stand last year were women and that isn’t something you see at many fairs we attend—if we are in the military section we worry that that figure may drop quite significantly. This inevitably has got us thinking and we have begun to question more and more exactly where medals fit within the overall history genre. Certainly there’s a military element that we cannot ignore, and nor would we wish to, but aren’t medals more than that? They aren’t, surely, to be seen in the same way as a rifle, bullet or shell casing, simply a memento of a long forgotten battle, are they? As the tangible record of a person and his or her service they must be more than just another collectable and whilst I don’t doubt that many of our readers also hold a great interest in and love of other military related items I can’t help but think we probably have more in common with the family historians than the bayonet collectors. I may be jumping the gun of course, the Military History Live show is taking place in the same hall as WDYTYA and it may well be that everyone visits every stand and that the overall “history” branding is stronger than the constituent parts. If that isn’t the case however, then it will be back to the drawing board for us and a bit of soul searching as to just where this hobby of ours, and this magazine, should be positioned. Are we a military hobby or an historical research one? In an ideal world we’d considered ourselves a little of both but if this experiment of bringing the two together doesn’t work then maybe it will be time to choose. Organisations like the OMRS have already made their stand—they aren’t a military related society but concerned with research, we brand ourselves as the magazine devoted to medals and battles, the military inference being obvious. Where, I wonder, do you see yourselves? Let us know, I think there’s a question that needs answering here and we’d like your views.
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