WWI commemorations should be "more than just the battlefield" - Museums Association

WWI commemorations should be “more than just the battlefield”

Conference delegates discuss preparations for 2014
Patrick Steel
Next year’s WWI commemorations should be “more than just the battlefield”, Linda Tomos, director of CyMAL: Museums Archives and Libraries Wales, told delegates at Liverpool 2013.

“If it’s just five years of battlefield retelling then after year one people will have had enough,” she said. “[The military side is] an important part of it but not the totality of it.

“To engage with people you might show how this affected your community, family, or nation. That’s the sort of sense museums can engender. And museums can ask the important questions about how does this global conflict reflect how we look at conflict today. We have the imagination and professional ability to interpret that.”

Delegates also heard from John Orna-Ornstein, director of museums at Arts Council England (ACE), who flagged up funding available for museums under ACE’s Grants for the arts scheme, and the Museums in schools programme, for which roughly half the programmes would be around WW1.

ACE is not prioritising WW1 in its current Strategic funding round, because the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has made this a priority, he added, but a decision was yet to be made on future rounds. ACE would also be working closely with the Imperial War Museum (IWM) and the HLF on further WW1 initiatives, he said, but details of these are not available yet.

The HLF has made £6m available for small grants to help communities across the UK mark the centenary, with £1m a year available until 2019. The HLF will also provide grants of £3,000 to £10,000 to enable communities and groups, particularly those involving young people, to explore, conserve and share their WW1 heritage and deepen their understanding of the impact of the conflict.

Lori Anderson, relationships and partnerships manager at Museums Galleries Scotland (MGS), said that the Scotland Commemorations Panel was working at a local, national and international level to join up thinking between organisations in Scotland and the UK.

Earlier this year the Scottish Executive gave £1m to schools to do educational visits to European battlefields, and has also funded a £1m Centenary Memorials Restoration Fund.

And Chris Bailey, director of the Northern Ireland Museums Council, spoke of the gap between history and people’s views in Northern Ireland, saying that museums have critical role in disarming myths and correcting misconceptions about the events of 1914-1918.

Earlier this month the IWM announced a First World War Centenary Partnership Programme, bringing together a network of over 1,800 cultural and educational not-for-profit organisations from 37 countries to mark the centenary.

For more information, please visit: www.1914.org

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