Every museum worth its salt has a World War I exhibition this Autumn. I’ve almost lost count of the exhibitions I’ve visited.
Imperial War: through an imperial lens
The IWM have just reopened their First World War galleries, when I visited a mere fortnight ago the museum was rammed with grandparents and grandchildren making the most of this new, free, interactive exhibition. For an imperial war museum they’ve done a good job. Technology has been used to good effect to create interactive games, and a reconstruction of a trench. Subject wise there was plenty on the war as class conflict, a section dedicated to conscientious objectors, as well as an informative area on the world war beyond Europe particularly in the Middle East. There was some effort to represent the home front, but I felt women were under-represented in the exhibition particularly with reference to activity on the Front – but then I suppose I did buy the book which brought women to my attention at the IWM so maybe its not all bad!
('The Din', Imperial War Museum Gallery)
(Neilson-Gray, Norah 1920,
The Scottish Women's Hospital : In The Cloister of the Abbaye at Royaumont. Dr. Frances Ivens inspecting a French patient.)
The Passing Bells
Another commemorative TV series on the BBC this Autumn – borrowing its title from Wilfred Owen’s ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’. TPB jumps a major hurdle to remembrance from the first scene in genuinely representing 3 different nationalities experience; German, English and Polish. The producers have worked hard to show the shared experiences and get some comment on most of the major events – 1914 Christmas peace, the Somme etc. I felt the role of women in TPC was well covered and nothing was over romanticised. That said, unlike Our World War the show is designed to feel like a period piece. War is not glamorised, the character of Derek (Brian Fletcher) is used to mirror some of the questions we are asking today ‘in a hundred years’ time, I wonder what they will make of this?’. You can catch The Passing Bells on iPlayer til Dec 3rd.
Burgh House: bringing the war home
To bring the conflict back to a very local scale I visited the free exhibition at Burgh House, Hampstead. Hampstead Heath played host to training troops during the conflict and artists famous from the era – including the Nash brothers and Richard Carline. The exhibition featured a copy of the Vorticist magazine, Blast and an original World War I nurses uniform as well as several photos of people using the hospital and the nearby heath during war-time. The curators had made good use of poetry on the walls to set the scene, and helped to set an international crisis into a local perspective – the personal drawn into stark relief through the smaller objects – a Princess Mary tin, a postcard home. The exhibition is open until 14th December. They also do great food!
(Troops work out on the Heath)
(The doorstep of Burgh House)