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Remembering Dunedin’s Great War

Remembering Dunedin’s Great War

Dunedin (Tuesday, 22 July 2014) – Almost a century after World War 1 began, its impact here and overseas is the theme of a Toitū Otago Settlers Museum exhibition.

Toitū Otago Settlers Museum staff are preparing for Dunedin’s Great War, an exhibition which opens on 1 August, almost 100 years to the day after World War I began on 4 August 1914. The exhibition provides a survey of Dunedin and its people during World War 1 and will run until 3 May.

Exhibition Developer William McKee says Dunedin’s Great War offers visitors a chance to explore what life was like at home and away during this era. The exhibition covers the major battles of the war as well as the work of the Otago Women’s Patriotic Society. The Society’s members raised large sums of money to send vast quantities of ‘comforts’, such as knitted socks, to the troops. Conscientious objectors feature in the survey and a signed copy of Archibald Baxter’s book, We Will Not Cease, is included in the exhibition.

Curator Seán Brosnahan has recently returned from a trip to Turkey, France and Belgium to film sites of significance for Otago soldiers. This footage will be used as part of the exhibition to provide a contemporary connection to these distant places.

Mr Brosnahan says about 1900 Dunedin men died in World War 1. The city matured over the four years of war, beginning with the enthusiastic patriotism that had been the norm during the earlier South African War. By the end of World War I, Dunedin people would view the Empire differently. The perception of war as ‘glorious’ had faded, but would still be upheld to honour the many that did not return.

The Museum will provide a beginner’s guide to tracing families’ World War 1 history in the Research Centre, as well as a series of talks and events to complement the exhibition. The Embarkation Weekend on 27 and 28 September 2014 will commemorate the gathering and departure of the first contingent of soldiers from Otago and Southland. On Sunday, 28 September the Museum will hold a range of events to complement this city event, including a talk by imminent historian Chris Pugsley.

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