Major changes at the Australian War Memorial

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Major changes to the Memorial’s First World War galleries are beginning this week. The $32 million modernisation of the galleries will be a significant part of the Memorial’s centenary of the First World War projects.

This week the Sinai–Palestine and Western Front galleries will temporarily close to the public. A suite of newly redesigned galleries will be launched in this space early in 2015.

“The Centenary of the First World War is fast approaching and the Memorial is gearing up to deliver something very special,” said Dr Brendan Nelson, Director of the Australian War Memorial. “Our new First World War galleries will draw on a range of new interactive technologies that will take the Memorial far beyond the Centenary. The refurbishment will place the Memorial’s galleries at the forefront of Australia’s Centenary program.”

The redevelopment of the First World War galleries is supported by the Australian Government, which has provided $28.7 million towards the project.  

The first stage of the redevelopment began in November last year when conservators started work on conserving the dioramas.   

“Favorite exhibits, such as the dioramas, will remain a prominent part of the new galleries, but the redevelopment also offers an exciting opportunity to display objects that have rarely been seen and in some cases never seen before,” said Dr Nelson. “For the first time, the dioramas will be placed in chronological order and explained in a manner suitable for a younger generation.”    

The Memorial’s Sinai–Palestine and Western Front galleries are closed from this week, but the Gallipoli gallery will remain open until June. Later this year a temporary First World War exhibition “Anzac Voices” will open, so visitors to the Memorial can continue to learn about the Great War until the new galleries open in 2015.  

“This is only the beginning of a busy period at the Memorial,” said Dr Nelson. “Not only is the redevelopment of the First World War galleries now fully under way, we are also making rapid progress on a powerful new Afghanistan exhibition.”  

When Dr Nelson was last in Afghanistan, an Australian soldier remarked to him, “Sir, when I take my son to the Memorial, I can show him what his great-grandfather did. I can show him what his grandfather did. But I can’t show him what I’m doing.”

“The Australian War Memorial is the national site of commemoration and interpretation of the Australian experience of war,” said Dr Nelson. “We owe it to our current servicemen and women to tell their stories and place them amongst the great stories of those Australians who served in the past.”

The new Afghanistan exhibition will encompass the entire Middle East Area of Operations and cover all three services. Not only will it portray the experiences of Australians at the sharp end, but it will also reflect the heroism of those men and women who help to bring stability to the country through training Afghan soldiers, countering the threat of improvised explosive devices, and building bridges, schools and other infrastructure.

“This exhibition will allow current-day veterans to feel confident that their stories are being told for today’s generation, and that their extraordinary efforts on behalf of all Australians will never be forgotten,” said Dr Nelson.

The new Afghanistan exhibition will open later this year on the Memorial’s lower level, near the entrance to the Research Centre, currently the Online Gallery. From 5 May the services currently offered in the Online Gallery will be provided from a new location within the Memorial.
Later this year, significant changes will occur to the Memorial’s website enhancing the usability and functionality for research.

To keep updated with changes at the Memorial, subscribe to the Memorial’s official newsletter, e-Memorial.

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