Of course, you present yourself to the main hall of the Imperial War Museum and you expect your mind to be bent in difficult directions; mine went to the book shop to touch and through a number of recommended tomes all of which I require here on the iPad as e-books; nothing fancy, the text and some ability to highlight, bookmark and share would do.
The current conflict overwhelms immediately with HD enlarged photos of combatants from Afghanistan, while aloft the relics of the First and Second World Wars, planes withouilots, gather dust.
Dust that prickles my nose must to see it, all the more aparent as the zoom on the iPad takes me in close.
The displays, unchanged since my last visit … three or four years ago, are now sparkling clean. Every item is now so new and so fresh even the artillery makes me think of a car showroom on Park Lane: all that’s lacking is the slick salesman and a price tag. I don’t mean to spund cyncil but nothing that I have read, heard or seen concerning war is this clean. War is dirty, smelly, dark, frighening, bloody and upsetting.
There’s something seriously lacking here. One image, far more stark to my mind, is a demographic pyramid for France in 1975 which shows a huge gargoyle of Females in their seventies as a stark demonstration of how a substantial part of a generation of men had been removed from the population during the First War. Even in Britain unmarried women were explained away as not being able to ‘find a man’ as they were in short supply come the 1920s.
Entering a trench system, firm under foot, a few manakins in play, far from shocked or even ‘taken back’ as I was on seeing this some years ago I find the iPad offers an augmented view, brightening what I see. Exhibits such as this need to play to a visiting populaceof all ages armed with smartphones and tablets, using this to ‘augment’ the experience and where appropriate scaring the shit out of them with a closer proximity to the hideousness of it. I hear my grandfather’s voice here, the passive expectation of death at any moment, possibly you, but if you’ve had the temerity to survive then always someone else.