York Castle Museum exhibition: A personalised take on World War One

In TSOTA’s first piece from York, Helena McCormick visits York Castle Museum’s World War One exhibition.

York Castle Museum’s new World War One exhibition opened on the 28th of June, precisely on the anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The title of the exhibition – ‘1914: When the World Changed Forever – definitely suits its purpose. The recurring theme throughout is the impact of war on people, with a particular focus on those who were living in York and the surrounding areas, and how their own worlds were transformed in different ways.

The exhibition really succeeds in its attempts to personalise WW1 and make it a more accessible part of history. It features many real life accounts of life during the war to make visitors connect with both the front line and the home front. This personalisation is enhanced by the way in which the exhibition uses objects and interactive displays to show the chronology of the war.

It begins in Georgian Britain, working its way through the war period and finally to armistice, with select objects telling the story of how people lived and how they endured. The exhibition features a recruitment office, a train to the front and a trench – all built to photographic historical accuracy, placing visitors in the boots of the soldiers and their journey.

Walking through the exhibition makes the war feel much more tangible and less distant. The tragedy of WW1 was also not lost, in spite of the beautiful art found throughout the exhibition. It ended end on a suitably sombre note with a blackboard filled with the thoughts of mainly school children, who succinctly summed up the devastation of war.

The exhibition is certainly worth a visit. Naturally, comparisons will be made with the Imperial War museum’s fantastic WW1 exhibition, but York Castle Museum’s take on WW1 has much to offer – particularly as it presents a more personal rather than political take on WW1.

1914: When the World Changed Forever is due to run at the York Castle Museum until the end of 2018. You can find more information here.

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