WWII Trail: Why We Trail!

The primary goal of the Time Trails project is to expand the reach of the museum (RAMM) outside of the limits of its physical space, and to allow its visitors’ and users of the mobile web based app to explore various aspects of the city’s history and culture. One such aspect which we are exploring and developing for the Time Trail project is the Second World War, and by taking items both on display and in the vast storage of the museum, the app will help users to view and engage with items of material culture closer to their original point of creation or discovery.

Further to this aim, the app will also allow users to explore and understand a number of themes related to this particular time period. Thematically, the study of the Second World War is a strong example of the potentially paradoxical nature of history. Examining the impact of this global event in the relatively diminutive context of the city of Exeter, we see themes such as conflict and resolution, destruction and regeneration and change and continuity. Many of these opposing themes are central to understanding the events and impact of WWII on the city of Exeter and can be illustrated by looking at the material record left by the period.                                  

The artefacts and items of material and artistic culture considered for this trail range in size from a mug to an air raid shelter, and include items such as medals, plans, paintings and travel warrants. These objects in themselves show the wide range of items which comprise the physical evidence which helps us to expose the story of the past, and while many of the items are specific to the period, others would find a familiar resonance with most people in the present. What they all have in common, whether obscure and remarkable or distinctly average or normal is that they create an affordance which will allow the user to uncover not only the factual parts of the story of WWII but also to consider how the war would have affected the lives of the people of this period and the physical impact that it had on the landscape of the city of Exeter.

This trail will highlight that history is not only about facts and dates or about right and wrong answers. It will aim to enable people to consider different ways of viewing and evaluating the past. It will also display that the items that we see in our museums are not always to be looked at as objects of monetary value or reverence, but are part of the rich tapestry of history which leads to the creation, discovery and memory of human stories and experiences.



About Will Barrett

Exeter REACT Collaborative PhD Studentship (Digital Interaction with Heritage at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery).
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