Four WWI museums at the ‘Western Front’ – Guest blogger Andrew Matheson

This is the first in our series of guest blog posts. We have been recruiting bloggers to write for us on a range of topics: from interesting things our members are doing to thoughts and inspiration from people outside the sector, but who are still part of our GLAM ecosystem. Subscribe to the blog and watch out for more of these in the coming weeks.

In this week’s post Andrew Matheson from WW100 has recently been on a trip to the ‘Western Front’ where the museums are interested in collaborations with people and institutions in Aotearoa.

Four WWI museums at the ‘Western Front’

On a recent business visit to the ‘Western Front’ I visited four museums with a First World War focus.

Historial de la Grande Guerre at Péronne

Historial de la Grande Guerre at Péronne

In France the Historial de la Grande Guerre in Péronne was established just over 20 years ago.  A Corbusier-inspired building houses the collections, and is attached to a brick château through which visitors enter.  The museum tells stories in three languages (English, French and German): not just of the military side of the war but how the lives of combatants and civilians were drastically modified by it.

Entering the main gallery at Meaux alongside 1914 soldiers

Entering the main gallery at Meaux alongside 1914 soldiers

100 km to the north is the town of Meaux, which hosts the Musée de la Grande Guerre in a striking new building.  This is a museum of history and society that aims to provide a new perspective on the First World War.

In Flanders in Belgium the well-known In Flanders Field Museum occupies part of the Cloth Hall in Ypres (Ieper).  It has reopened after a significant redevelopment, and in its first year since then 300,000 visitors passed through.

Not far away in the town of Zonnebeke is the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917.  In July a large extension to the museum was opened; mostly in underground galleries but also including a recreation of trenches and dugouts.  The new collections include the sculptural work Falls the shadow by New Zealand artist Helen Pollock, and a section of the exhibit devoted to New Zealand’s involvement in the area.

All these museums are aware of New Zealand’s contribution to the First World War, and are keen to do more to tell our stories. Specific requests and offers at the moment are:

  • The museum at Meaux would like to borrow artefacts and gain the use of images for its 2015 exhibition on the Dardanelles and eastern front campaigns.  It would also like to source appropriate medals and genuine or replica New Zealand Army boots for one of its displays.  It is also willing to assist New Zealand museums with sourcing French artefacts.  If you are able to assist, please contact the Director Michel Rouger: michel.rouger@meaux.fr.
  • Meaux would like to host contemporary artists from New Zealand performing works with a relevant theme.
  • The museums at Meaux and Péronne are both interested in hosting presentations by authors or researchers on First World War themes (French-speaking ones especially).
  • The Historial at Péronne is interested in swapping exhibits, exchanges of personnel, or loans of artefacts.  The contact there is Frédérick Hedley: f.hadley@historial.org.

    Trench exhibit at the First World War museum at Meaux

    Trench exhibit at the First World War museum at Meaux

If you are able to help, or want to take advantage of these invitations or offers, please contact the museums directly or get in touch with the First World War Centenary Programme Office at: info@WW100.govt.nz.

Andrew Matheson
Director
First World War Centenary Programme

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