Review and images by Francis Cook
Peter Jackson’s exhibit at Old Dominion Museum Disappoints
Is Peter Jackson incapable of removing his own personal brand of twee novelty even when it comes to war commemoration? The new exhibition at the Old Dominion Museum, costing an estimated $10 million, will charm and delight but ultimately leave you uninformed and unmoved.
Beginning with a walk through a cute “French/Belgium style village”, the exhibit follows a chronological tour through the war year by year. The village represents the excitement of adventure and travel for the young Kiwi lads.
I kept expecting the exhibit to take a dark turn as we progressed through the years, but encountered nothing of the sort. The exhibition is patently “cool”. While the displays are impressive, they are more style than substance. It’s a bit London Dungeon-esque. More Horrible Histories than horrible history.
In stark contrast to the new Gallipoli exhibit at Te Papa, Jackson appears to have avoided any semblance of realism or tragedy in the war. There is a dearth of actual facts. Instead we are treated to vintage propaganda posters and placards informing us about slang from the war. (Which we still use today. Cool.)
The guide pointed out which items were from Sir Peter Jackson’s personal collection and offered us the chance the experience the smell of chlorine gas – how novel! If only veterans were alive today to take that sensory trip down memory lane! Want to be reminded of how hot it is in a tank? Look no further.
The exhibit ends quite happily with a veteran relaxing with, presumably, his grandson on ANZAC day. It was here that our tour guide delivered the exciting news about upcoming sequels. “You know Sir Peter Jackson is a fan of trilogies,” she said, and told us of the upcoming extensions. I for one am most excited by the “Trench Experience” opening in August. Jackson stated that he wants it to be as loud as possible and will even include the smell of dead bodies. If it really comes together, maybe we will get to experience shell shock!