The Living Museum brings WWII stories to life

St James’s Park in London played host to a special commemorative exhibition to remember life in Britain during World War II last week.

The Living Museum, a temporary exhibition space running the length of The Mall between Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square, was the visual focus of London’s anniversary celebrations, taking place during National Commemoration Week.

Design teams from more than 30 museums and organisations around the country created their own showcases for the event, including BBC Heritage, The National Army Museum, The Imperial War Museum and The Royal Air Force Museum. Bristol-based designer Nick Hind created the BBC at War exhibition, which recreated the war through the eyes of the BBC. Based on a timeline, Hind’s designs begin with Neville Chamberlain’s declaration of war, broadcast to the nation in September 1939.

Hind explains that his brief was to relate the exhibition to the BBC’s People’s War website, peopleswar, which is designed as a ‘living memory board’ for people to share their own memories and stories.

‘The Timeline was a good way of taking people through the war period,’ says Hind. ‘We worked with BBC Heritage to create the S-shaped wall in our 12x15m space. The tricky thing was tracking down images relating to specific events, because while there was a lot of radio during the time, image technology was a lot less prevalent,’ he says. Archived sound footage plays a key part in the BBC exhibition.

Other areas sought to evoke the war in different ways. The Imperial War Museum’s design team created a space called Their Past Your Future, which sought to explore the impact of the war on the people and places of Britain. The Royal Air Force Museum’s exhibit – Scramble! – deployed a Spitfire in a sandbagged airfield defence position, complete with the trappings of a take-off scenario.

Other war machinery, such as a German Panzer III tank from Bovington Tank Museum, the Rolls Royce staff car used by General Montgomery, and period vehicles such as ambulances and fire engines, were also on display along The Mall during the weekend.

The week has seen a number of other events taking place to remember the war. Buckingham Palace has been the backdrop for a 20-minute ‘son et lumière’ light show depicting images of Britain at war. Last weekend also saw the opening of the free Exhibition of World War II art at The Banqueting House in Whitehall, which continues until 5 August. And a 7m bronze monument to the women of World War II by sculptor John Mills was also unveiled by HM the Queen in Whitehall last week.

The identity for the 60th anniversary of WWII was designed by Loewy (DW 26 May).

Commemoration website

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