Members of the public have until September to experience a thought-provoking and immersive exhibition that tells the fascinating story of medicine during the First World War and the impact it has had throughout the 20th Century. Working in partnership with New Ventures Trust and the Museum of Military Medicine, artist Athena Jane Churchill has created a unique installation that pays homage to the role of medicine in World War 1. The work has been funded by through a Heritage Lottery Fund.
The inspiration for the work was drawn from the ‘Echoes Across the Century’ exhibition seen at the Guildhall Art Gallery in 2017. For the new installation, Athena Jane has created a site-specific WW1 set of the trenches in which to mount artwork by young people who worked closely with Athena Jane on three of the projects that made up Echoes Across the Century. These three projects each began with a heritage object relating to medicine in the First World War. An ambulance, a hospital ship and spectacles provided the starting points for each project. Athena Jane explored each object with the participants, bringing heritage alive and helping the young artists to shape their work and reach excellence in their creative approach as they expressed what they had learnt and understood through art.
The projects in the venue’s vestibule gallery provide an introduction to the museum’s exhibition. ‘Medicine and Innovation in Conflict: The Army Medical Services in World War One’. Visitors are led through Athena Jane’s artistic interpretation of textured trenches to the museum’s own exhibition in a trench system that closely resembles those on the Western Front.
Commenting on the installation Athena Jane said: “It is particularly rewarding to be exhibiting at the Museum of Military Medicine, one of our heritage partners for the ‘Echoes Across the Century’ show. The children and I gained so much inspiration from our visit to the museum. Stories, such as the WW1 ambulance driver who earned a Victoria Cross, truly resonated with the children and me, allowing us to get under the skin of WW1.
“My work allows visitors to step into other worlds – sense the experience of being on the front during WW1. For this installation, I have created a hand-painted set inspired by the textures, feelings and imagery of the trenches, creating an immersive introduction for people visiting the exhibition.”
Jason Semmens, Director of The Museum of Military Medicine, explains: “In 2017 we had the idea of having a WW1 exhibition and we saw the Echoes Across the Century exhibition at the Guildhall which we thought was fantastic. We then applied to the Heritage Lottery Fund and were successful.
“The Museum of Military Medicine currently features two displays on the role of medicine in WW1, how medical treatment was organised, how it was developed through necessity, and the resulting advances that were made which had a major impact on the treatment of illness and injury throughout the 20th century. As WW1 is passing out of living memory, it is vital that the relevance of medical advancements made during the war is shared and understood.
“Athena Jane’s work will facilitate workshops for teachers and visits by schools to learn about and understand the heritage of the story of medicine from WW1. Workshops and activities will be held in June 2019 to share the stories of how the wounded in WW1 were helped. Teachers will receive training and inspiration about teaching about heritage through the medium of art, and digital resources will be produced as a lasting legacy for teaching. Students whose artwork is exhibited will be invited to share their experiences with students and staff who attend the workshops.”