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Human Story of WWI Told in Rare and Precious Keepsakes

Human Story of First World War Told in Rare and Precious Keepsakes

Dunedin (Tuesday, 1 July 2014) – Another side to World War I is revealed in the latest Reed Gallery exhibition at the City Library, as the contents of two fascinating scrapbooks of personal memorabilia go on show.

Dunedin Public Libraries Marketing Co-ordinator Kay Mercer says arguably, Otago sent more men to the Great War, in terms of the percentage of population, than any other region of New Zealand. More than 1,500 Dunedin people died as a result of the war and many more were permanently disabled.

Honouring the memory of those lost and affected by the long reach of this devastating period in history, City Librarian W. B. McEwan began collecting for a “New Zealand European War Collection” from about 1916. After an appeal to his contacts all over the world seeking donations of items for the collection, Mr McEwan was able to amass a treasure trove of documents, pamphlets, magazines and souvenirs. These personal treasures now form the basis of the Reed Gallery Exhibition “Keepsakes”, which will open at the City Library on Friday.

Many of these fragile items are in mint condition, while others have been carried in a soldier’s uniform pocket, or sent through the mail, bearing the marks of their journey.

Alongside documents relating to soldiers’ welfare, training and health, and the impact of war on families left behind, the exhibition includes some of the Libraries’ collection of soldiers’ magazines where wordsmiths, cartoonists and artists made their contribution to New Zealand’s unofficial war history, with artistic skill and typical Kiwi humour.

There are campaign souvenirs from Turkey, Europe and the Middle East, as well as many non-combat activities witnessed in mementoes of the time, such as theatre programmes, sports events and menus.

“These rare keepsakes, precious for the memories they invoke, offer us a unique opportunity to glimpse the personalities of those who stood on the very soil of those historic events of the Great War,” Mrs Mercer says.

Reed Gallery Exhibition: Keepsakes - Rediscovered Souvenirs of the Great War

Friday 4 July – Sunday 28 September

Reed Gallery, third Floor, City Library


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