National Museums Invite Young People To Remember The Great War

The National Portrait Gallery along with four other major museums is to showcase their creative and personal responses to the First World War and its impact on local areas. Over seventy young people from across the UK have joined together to participate in National Memory – Local Stories, a nation-wide project led by the Gallery to help young people uncover personal connections with the First World War as part of its four-year programme commemorating the centenary.
Through National Memory – Local Stories, which is funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, the young people have been exploring objects from the collections of five partner museums through a series of creative workshops developed and delivered by project partner and digital media company, Media 19. The workshops allowed participants to discover local connections, stories and experiences relating to the First World War, and develop their own creative digital responses. The five partner museums are National Museums Northern Ireland, National Museums Scotland, Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, The Rifles Berkshire and Wiltshire Museum and Redbridge Museum, London.
During their visit to the National Portrait Gallery, the young people who have been working with each partner museum had the chance to meet and share experiences, tour the current The Great War in Portraits exhibition, participate in a First World War-themed walking tour and view portraiture in the Gallery from this period. They also had the opportunity to present their finished artwork created during the project to the curator of The Great War in Portraits exhibition, Paul Moorhouse, and Sandy Nairne, Director of the National Portrait Gallery.
The creative workshops, led and facilitated by Media 19 along with the partner museums, have been taking place across the UK for the past year. They have been central to the project and have allowed the young people to experiment with digital media and expressive writing, and find their own way of connecting with local and national history through visual imagery and stories relating to the First World War. The young people have explored a range of museum collection objects, resources and archival materials and researched their own family and community connections. Artists also worked alongside each group of young people during the workshops, resulting in five newly commissioned artworks to be displayed at the partner museums alongside the young people’s individual creative responses to the War.
A new website documenting National Memory – Local Stories has also launched, showcasing the young people’s artwork and the artists’ commissions. The site also presents a range of films including profiles of the workshops at each of the partner museums, an introduction to the partner museum collection objects that were the focus of the workshops, as well as explorations of the commissioned artists’ creative process and experience with the project.
Liz Smith, Director of Participation and Learning at the National Portrait Gallery, says: ‘We are absolutely delighted to welcome all the young people involved in National Memory – Local Stories to the National Portrait Gallery to celebrate their work and mark the launch of the project website. Their creative response and ideas have demonstrated the enduring relevance of local and personal connections with national commemorations and the importance of museum collections in supporting the exploration of these stories. We hope that this project goes onto inspire others in developing their own response to historical anniversaries.’
The fifth set of National Memory – Local Stories workshops will take place this July with Redbridge Museum in London, young people from Wanstead High School and a London-based artist. The workshops will be led by a team from the National Portrait Gallery’s Learning Department in partnership with Redbridge Museum and Redbridge Information & Heritage staff.
Ultimately, a project toolkit using National Memory – Local Stories as a case study will be made available to assist others wishing to engage young people with the history of their local area and community in the future.

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