The Unbuilt Room: Europeana 1914-1918 was commissioned by The British Library to accompany its exhibition Enduring War: Grief, Grit and Humour.  Marking the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, the collection examined "how people coped with life during the war: from moments of patriotic fervour to periods of anxious inactivity, shock and despair".

The British Library is the UK's lead organisation contributing to Europeana Collections 1914-1918: Remembering the First World War, an incredible pan-European digital archive of material related to World War One.  Many of the objects in the Enduring War exhibition are included in the digital archive, and some of these objects form the basis for this new version of The Unbuilt Room.

Players were given a password to access this secret page after playing the game, in order to see the entire game map and revisit objects from the exhibition via the digital archive.  With the game now closed, this page has been made public.

Performances were Tuesday evenings 16, 23, 30 September and 7 October, 2014 at 18:00, 18:30 and 19:00.

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In the game, players explored an imagined world.  Each part of the world is based on one or more objects from the Enduring War exhibition.

These areas are shown in the game map to the left (click to enlarge).  Source material for each area is detailed below, with links to view some objects in the Europeana digital archive or the British Library's online resources.


The poet Isaac Rosenberg wrote that receiving letters while at the front made him feel as though friends had come to take him for a picnic.  The description of the English meadow uses lines from Rubert Brooke’s 1914 (V. The Soldier).

Isaac Rosenberg - letter to Mr. Bottomley
Rubert Brooke - 1914 (V. The Soldier)


As a Russian poster ridiculing Wilhelm II showed him running in endless circles, here generals of all stripes chase each other round and round.  No matter which levers are pulled, the carousel just spins faster and faster...

From Wilhelm's Carousel by Malevich & Mayakovsky.


'What passing-bells for those who die as cattle?'  The opening line of Wilfred Owen’s Anthem for Doomed Youth brings to mind the story of Theseus and the Minotaur and the sacrifice of Athenian youths.  Owen's poem provides the atmosphere of the labyrinth, but here the balls of wool aren't for finding the way back...

Wilfred Owen - Anthem for Doomed Youth


A Holborn schoolboy described his experience of a Zeppelin bombing raid on London.  In addition to the physical damage, these early bombing raids had a huge psychological impact and were mentioned by DH Lawrence in a letter to Lady Ottoline Morrel in September 1915:  '...there was war in heaven, but it was not angels.  It was that small golden Zeppelin... calm and drifting in a glow of light, like a new moon.' 

Holborn school-boys' impressions of airship raids over London
Photo - Zeppelin  damage


In Jessie Pope’s poem No!, the role of women left behind was to 'watch and wait... as we busily knit and sew'.  After waiting here and knitting - with the wool found in the Labyrinth - the locked door to the north will open and reveal news of a loved one at the front.

From No! by Jessie Pope.


In 1915, a Punjabi trooper of the 18th Lancers serving in France wrote to his uncle in India: 'We are in no distress or suffering of any kind here.  Have no fear for us.'

From Reports of the Censor of Indian Mails in France.


'I'm leaving this in case I don't come back...'  Roland Garvin wrote to his family a few days before he was killed on the Somme in 1916.

Roland Garvin - Letter of 20 July 1916


In contrast to the Meadow, here is Brooke’s 'foreign field that is forever England'.  The image of repeated blankets is drawn from a photo of Gurkhas at a kit inspection in Flanders.

Rubert Brooke - 1914 (V. The Soldier)
Photo - Gurkhas in Flanders


Siegfried Sassoon, poet and decorated soldier, wrote in his famous 1917 statement to his commanders: 'I have seen and endured the sufferings of the troops and I can no longer be a party to prolonging those suffering for ends which I believe to be evil and unjust.'  In a note to the editor of the Edinburgh Review, he added 'No doubt I am entirely wrong.  Poets usually are!  I hope you will give me credit for being honest, anyhow.'

Siegfried Sassoon - Statement
Siegfried Sassoon - Letter to Mr. Cox


The maze of trenches echoes the language of the Labyrinth and takes its description from a photo and two letters:  A now-anonymous Indian soldier writing to his brother from France and Isaac Rosenberg’s notes on edits to his poem Break of Day in the Trenches.

Once in the trenches, it is very difficult to find the way back home.

From Reports of the Censor of Indian Mails in France.
Isaac Rosenberg - letter to Mr. Bottomley
Photo - Highlanders and Dogras in a trench


The regimental pet of the 24th Battalion (Victoria Rifles) of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, 'Squidge' sometimes appears and helps lost players to find their way...

> Photo - Squidge