Telling untold war stories
During a series of talks Te Papa lead curator Kirstie Ross will delve into some of the more unknown elements of Gallipoli: The Scale of
Did you have an interest in Wwibefore being involved in planning the exhibition?
I’m not a military historian but I was interested in the social history of WWI but it was through building our collections in readiness for the centennial that it really peaked my interest, especially after seeing some of the intimate treasures that we started collecting.
What were some of the challenges in getting Gallipoli: The Scale of our War all together?
You have to account for the longevity of the exhibition, people are rough and there’s often children running around so we had to make sure it would last and hold up to 1.5 million visitors (so far) coming through. Here at Te Papa, we know how to make exhibitions but sometimes, for something as big as this, you need to bring in those outside experts to create the best possible exhibition.
Were a lot of the items used in the Te Papa collection already or did you have to seek them out?
There are a lot of specialist collectors out there so we borrowed a lot which we were really lucky to be able to do in a short time. However, with Gallipoli, we took the narrative and the topic and built all of the interpretive media around that story so it’s a different kind of exhibition.
What’s something about the exhibition that most people might not know?
One of our curators went to Gallipoli in the early stages of the project and she took photos of the stones there which were used on these really robust tiles from Japan which are throughout the exhibition.
The planned talks focus on souvenirs, the role of nurses and food during the Great War – Whyhave you chosen those specific topics to explore indepth?
It’s about opening up the exhibition and exploring those unknown topics that are very relatable. It’s pulling out some of those universal themes so souveniring was rife during the war which is something I’ll talk about in one of my sessions which is about the mementos that the soldiers brought home from battle to prove they were actually there and made history.
Can you explain what ‘trench art’ is?
One of the nurses, Daisy Hitchcock, brought back some amazing art, some of which was made for her by recuperating soldiers. It was things like engraved aluminium plates and cups, pens made out of shell and riffle cartridges, that type of thing. ❚ Gallipoli Talks with Kirstie Ross, August 22, 24& 30, 11:15am, see tepapa.govt.nz for more information.
LOOK WHO’S TALKING ‘‘You have to account for the longevity of the exhibition, people are rough and there's often children running around so we had to make sure it would last and hold up to 1.5 million visitors coming through.’’ Te Papa curator Kirstie Ross