Here Is Their Spirit – Australian War Memorial : Book Review

I’ve been rereading “Here Is Their Spirit – A History Of The Australian War Memorial” by Michael McKernan which was published to coincide with the 50th Anniversary of the official opening.

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Officially opened on Remembrance Day, 11th November, 1941, the concept of the AWM was conceived by WW1 historian, C E W Bean. His vision was for “commemoration and understanding, or more accurately, commemoration through understanding”.

The idea of a museum memorial date backs to 1916, when Bean witnessed the battles in France, though the Australian War Records Section weren’t established until 1917.

An Architectural Design Competition in 1927 did not have a winner though two entrants were asked to work together to fulfil a brief, a brief much reduced due to the Depression.

This book gives a fascinating insight into the trials that went into creating this magnificent building, both political, financial and practical.

It was also wonderful to read how the public embraced the concept and came to the Memorial’s aid enthusiastically when there was a plea for additions to the collection, such as letters, medals, and photographs. One General had to be advised on the quiet that live shells were an inappropriate donation!

Unfortunately, there was a period of disinterest and lack of funding which meant that some priceless objects were either tossed out or stolen.

An interesting read, despite being published nearly thirty years ago with much change instigated since then.

These days the AWM is much valued and considered a national treasure. It has ever changing exhibitions and is constantly being innovative in bringing our past to the forefront. For the centenary anniversary of Gallipoli the projection of 200 iconic wartime photographs on the outside wall of the building each evening was just stunning on so many levels. ( and helped increase the share price for Kleenex I have no doubt).

Disappearing shortly for a few days as a Mother’s job role includes restocking fridges and a pantry. My youngest is on the move so I’m also looking forward to stacking the bookshelves-and not in colour coordinated book spine fashion!

I’ve been promised a Yum Cha which is a great motivational tool. Or is it a bribe?

She’s just up the road from the AWM. Do you think she’ll know if I get lost amongst the cartons one afternoon?

“ Here is their spirit,
In the heart of
The land they loved;
And here we guard
The record which they
Themselves made.”
C E W Bean

 

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