Jo Sohn-RethelBy Jo Sohn-Rethel, Project Co-ordinator, Next of Kin

The Next of Kin touring project centres on revealing the personal experiences of Scottish families during the First World War as a way of commemorating the centenary of the conflict. Through the personal effects of the servicemen and women passed on to their families and down through generations, the exhibition provides unique insights into their poignant stories of separation and sacrifice. After the exhibition closes at the National War Museum next year, the display will travel to nine museums across Scotland and the objects from National Museums Scotland collections will be joined by artefacts and people associated with the local areas of each venue. Along with the object case displays, these stories will be incorporated into a digital interactive on display and community groups will create their own responses to the topic through an object handling box.

Embroidered postcard sent by Private George Buchanan to his sister

Embroidered postcard sent by Private George Buchanan to his sister.

As coordinator of the project, my first few weeks or so involved helping the team to prepare graphics and audio-visual content for installation at the War Museum. Much time was spent editing down original newsreel footage acquired from Imperial War Museum collections which are being shown in a recreated wartime cinema room. The aim is to convey how families would have found out about the experiences of their loved ones on the fighting fronts, albeit through carefully selected footage such as soldiers from the Black Watch regiment at a sports day and ‘the wonderful organisation of the Royal Army Medical Corps’.

Still from 'The Wonderful Organisation of the R.A.M.C.' film, produced by the War Office, 1916, IWM 133, Courtesy of the Trustees of the Imperial War Museum

Still from ‘The Wonderful Organisation of the R.A.M.C.’ film, produced by the War Office, 1916, IWM 133, Courtesy of the Trustees of the Imperial War Museum.

Another immersive audio visual element in the exhibition is a soundscape of voices taken from letter correspondence between family members and diary entries on display. Original archive artefacts make up nearly half of the objects on display, including a poignant postcard sent by Private William Dick to his wife, a letter from a German soldier to the family of Private James Scouller describing their son’s last moments on the battlefield, and a letter from a Presbyterian Chaplain informing Mrs Buchanan of her son Private George Buchanan’s death. Recordings of actors (and museum staff!) reading out this archive material helps to evoke the personalities and emotions of the protagonists in the stories.

You can hear the stories here:

Family photograph of Private George Buchanan in uniform

Family photograph of Private George Buchanan in uniform.

Touring the exhibition to museums around Scotland presents other opportunities to incorporate family stories into object interpretation. Many partner museums are actively acquiring World War One related objects donated or loaned by local people who have developed a keen interest in their wartime family history due to the Centenary. Consulting these people about the personal value of these objects as tools for learning about and remembering their relatives will be an important way of discovering the continuing significance and impact of the conflict in Scottish families’ lives. Furthermore, museum staff are keen on carrying out co-curation activities with local community groups to collect perspectives of community groups to existing artefacts in the collection. The key challenge will be devising ways of communicating these contemporary interpretations in physical and digital displays alongside the original personal accounts of troops and families during the war.

Find out more about the touring exhibition here.

on-horseback-100pxGuest post by Steve Baker, founding member of the The Lancashire Hussars, First World War Cavalry troop.

The Lancashire Hussars will be  performing at Wartime Experience on Sunday 11 May at National Museum of Flight, East Fortune. Watch battle re-enactments, get your hair done wartime style, learn to dance to the hits of the Blitz and find out about everyday life in wartime Britain.

We will be putting on displays of ‘derring-dos’ and demonstrating and talking about the role of the British yeomanry cavalry in the First World War to enlighten and entertain you, and maybe show off – just a little bit.

Lancashire Hussars, First World War Cavalry re-enactment troop

Lancashire Hussars, First World War Cavalry re-enactment troop

A bit more about the troop

The Project started in December 2011 when a small group of friends got together to discuss the forthcoming anniversary of the start of the First World War and since then the project has blossomed, taking off fully when the National Lottery Heritage fund made the troop a substantial grant.

Lancashire Hussars, First World War Cavalry re-enactment troop

Lancashire Hussars, First World War Cavalry re-enactment troop

We have a portable museum that is based around a cavalry camp and explores the history of the regiment. Our riders put on a variety of fast-paced riding displays, in full period kit and with historically correct equipment and weaponry. Of course this takes a lot of training.

Lancashire Hussars, First World War Cavalry re-enactment troop tent

Lancashire Hussars, First World War Cavalry re-enactment troop tent

The horses we use are the best in the business, being hired from a professional stunt riding team. And of all the horses I have ridden, they are the best.

Quotes from the troop members and why they do it

“Friendship, a sense of achievement and the satisfaction of putting on a great show “

“Friends, horses and honouring some very brave people from our past “

“We  try to be true to the history of the regiment and where possible work hand in hand with people like the Lancashire Infantry Museum. The display being fun, but I believe to be respectful.”

To show respect for those that went before by walking in their shoes.”

You can find out more about what we do at www.lancashirehussars.co.uk

 

Guest post by Tom Greenshields from Gordon Highlanders 1914 – 1918

The Gordon Highlanders will be carrying out a First World War battle re-enactment amongst other Great War experiences at World Wars Experience, National Museum of Flight, East Fortune on Sunday 27 May. The two World Wars will come to life with living history presenters and their vehicles, live battles, vintage beauty workshops and posing for wartime portraits! 

The Gordon Highlanders 1914-1918 are proud to appear again at the World Wars Experience at the National Museum of Flight. We greatly value our continued relationship with the National Museums Scotland and look forward to doing our best once again, to recreate the life of the soldiers of the Gordon Highlanders during the First World War.

First World War Gordon Highlanders at ease in the trenches

First World War Gordon Highlanders at ease in the trenches.

Preparing for an event of this nature involves quite a bit of work behind the scenes. First and foremost, we have to make sure that we know exactly what the organisers want. Each show is different and we need to make sure we tailor our performance to deliver both what is required and what is compatible with the site. We need to work out a programme with the organisers, do a recce of the the site and decide with the organisers, where the camp-site and other static elements of our display will go.

First World War Gordon Highlander in the trenches

First World War Gordon Highlander in the trenches.

We find out what PA system is available, and ensure arrangements are in place for food, washing and toilets.  We have to decide on appropriate kit for the event, and also whether or not we are able to use pyrotechnics – if so, we have to obtain them.  Members are briefed on how to get to the event site and transport arrangements made accordingly.

On the weekend itself, we have to transport all the stores, including tents, props, spare kit, display boards, and youngsters’ kit for dressing up and set-up the camp-site, normally the day before the event. Finally we have to work up our presentations, making sure that any new features are properly rehearsed before we deliver them. So, nothing much to do really…

First World War Gordon Highlanders' camp

First World War Gordon Highlanders’ camp at World Wars Experience in 2011.

At the World Wars Experience, we will be delivering a range of presentations, hopefully to suit all tastes. These will include:

  • An all-action arena display, which will feature unit training, including PT, gas drills and bayonet drill, and will end with a small simulated attack on a German position
  • Participation in a ‘fashion parade’ of uniforms from both World Wars
  • A pretty hard-hitting presentation entitled ‘After the battle’ in which we concentrate on the experience of the soldier after going over the top
  • An authentic camp-site in which you will be able to meet the soldiers and ask them about their experiences, their uniform and kit. You might even be able to try on the uniform if we have one to fit!
  • At the camp-site, you will also find:
  • A miniature ‘barbed wire’ assault course for the youngsters to crawl through – but beware in case the Germans hear you!
  • Kilts and jackets for the youngsters to try on – we can even take the youngsters for drill – give ‘em some discipline!
  • A set of display boards on the Highland Soldier in the Great War, which we hope to set up in one of the interior spaces.

We are looking forward to taking part again in the World Wars Experience.  If you want to find out more about us, please visit our website at www.gordonhighlanders1914-18.co.uk

Anita BriggsBy Anita Briggs, Digital Media Content Creator

It’s been almost two years since I joined the new Digital Media team at National Museums Scotland and time has certainly flown by! It’s been a really exciting creative journey getting acquainted with the collections and fascinating world at the museums.

Ice cream van, Bute, September 1983 from the Scottish Life Archive.

The last year has seen an increase in activity in online activity at the National Museums Scotland, we’ve got a fabulous HTML5 redeveloped website which has experienced significant increase in website traffic (up nearly 30% from this time last year) and we are now firmly established on Twitter, Facebook and Flickr. A great addition to our Flickr photostream has been images from our Scottish Life Archive which have marked the changing seasons and special exhibitions.

As Content Creator, the topics that I investigate become ever more varied, and the opening of the redeveloped National Museum of Scotland will only add to my knowledge of peculiar museum facts.  Some of the highlights over the last year have been digital detective investigating the mummy coffins from Ancient Egypt, discovering what objects are associated with Mary Queen of Scots and examining the detail in war paintings.  I’ve also been doing a bit of digital reporting from events across the sites , notably Concorde’s 35th anniversary, World Wars Experience and Robots Live!

Interior of First World War troop tent

Interior of First World War troop tent at World Wars Experience at National Museum of Flight.

We are really excited about the opening of the redeveloped National Museum of Scotland on 29 July.  It gives us the opportunity to feature some of the so far unseen objects  that await visitors when the museum opens its doors. We will be making the most of our social media channels to let you know what is is happening and what new things there are to see. Why not follow us on Twitter, on Facebook and Flickr to keep-up-to-date with developments?

Hippo in the Wildlife Panorama at the National Museum of Scotland

Flying hippo and manatee in the Wildlife Panorama at the National Museum of Scotland. Photo by Sean Bell.

Across the museums, our summer events programme is now in full swing and we are looking forward to letting you know what happens pre and post event at this year’s Airshow and our opening weekend at National Museum of Scotland.  For the Airshow, guest blog posts are being provided by some of those taking part in the flying display and activity on the ground.

The Breitling Wingwalkers performing an aerobatics display.

Well, I think that’s all for now but don’t forget to keep in touch with all that’s going on at National Museums Scotland on our website!

Anita BriggsBy Anita Briggs, Digital Media Content Creator

Lately I’ve been producing a Digital Story to bring to life letters in our collection from the First World War trenches. We are using some letters of Captain Willie Bennett Clerk of the Royal Scots regiment from 1915-16. Working with the Audio Visual team we’ve recorded an audio track starring our very own Learning Officer, Scott Neil, reading the letters. For images we are sourcing archive images from the First World War from the National Library of Scotland and contemporary images from Flickr .

Working party in the trenches

British working party in German trench, recently capturedby Ernest Brooks © Trustees of the National Library of Scotland

The highlight of the Digital Story so far has been the ‘male model’ that took part in a photography session in our studio at the National Museums Collection Centre. Dave Clarke (actually a history teacher and part-time facilitator) wore his own collection of First World War military uniforms in a two hour session – it was hot work for him wearing a gas mask and goat skin under studio lighting but look at the super results.

Have a look at the finished production of Letters by Captain William Bennet-Clark of the Royal Scots here,

You can find out more about the First World War at the National War Museum at Edinburgh Castle.

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