Art of Nation. Australia's offical art and photograph of the First World War

Art of nation: Australia’s official art and photography of the First World War is a digital interpretation of the earliest plans for the Australian War Memorial. Australian official war historian and Memorial founder Charles Bean sketched the design for this building in 1919 as he returned home to Australia following the First World War. That design has been digitally created here for the first time.

During the war, artists and photographers were deployed to the front to witness and record the war first hand. Bean’s imagined building contains separate galleries housing the official war art and photography collections. The large paintings are exhibited in a dedicated art gallery for the first time. The photography gallery displays a recreation of the first major exhibition of Australian official war photography in London in May 1918.

Click on the paintings and photographs for more information and to explore maps that trace the journeys of the artists and photographers. Photographs and sketches have been pinned to maps, allowing visitors to explore where Australians served and, by using Google Street View, what these places look like today. Animations attached to photographer Frank Hurley’s composite images reveal how these works were created, while a “magic lantern” slide projection features the early colour photography process used to record the war.

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Charles Bean’s 1919 sketch of his proposal for the Memorial

Charles Bean’s 1919 sketch of his proposal for the Memorial, file AWM170 1/1

Winner MAGNA awards

Winner of the 2018 Museums & Galleries National Award for Permanent Exhibition or Gallery Fitout.

Judges' comments: Art of Nation takes advantage of the depth of pre-existing research, photography and collection assets and, through working with Ortelia, makes them accessible in an innovative way. The production quality is good and the system seems designed to be very sustainable for ongoing use and updating by AWM staff. Great to see a history museum making such extensive and effective use of artworks as historical documentation - long overdue! The project has made excellent use of digital technologies to create effective interactive, online displays in gallery format while providing further interpretation and exploration by visitors. Of particular note, is the use of artworks, archives, digital mapping through Google Earth, to pin-point on maps the specific locations of places and buildings depicted in wartime paintings and photographs, provide interpretive materials about the associated events, and then use both historical and contemporary photographs to show the wartime state and what the location looks like today.

Created by Ortelia Interactive and the Australian War Memorial

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We thank our project sponsors:

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Ruth and Steve Lambert