Reflections on the Imperial War Museum’s Great War Gallery

After a Push by Christopher Nevinson

Reflections on the Imperial War Museum’s Great War Gallery

Is the purpose of a museum
To tell a story or show-off its wares ?
Poking around the bowels of Bedlam,
I started to question theirs.
Crammed-in from a lack of space,
(A bit like the trenches, but only a bit),
I started to notice the absences,
The parts they couldn’t manage to fit –
The lack of horses, for instance,
Or the lack of Colonial troops in the ranks,
Or the life in the Jerry’s trenches,
Or even that much about the yanks.
It was, in the end, not a history,
But a series of stories of artefacts –
More could be added, but as modern props,
With the sense-of-fakeness this attracts.
The trouble, perhaps, was with the curators
One hundred-plus years ago,
Collecting what was seen as significant
So soon after the show.
We might now wish they’d chosen diff’rent,
The future might want diff’renter yet –
But if they ain’t got it, they cannot display it,
So this is the War that we get.

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