We’re delighted to welcome Lauren Theweneti from the Preservative Party in Leeds this week. We asked her to tell us about their First World War exhibition (which opens TODAY) and moving beyond statistics to find the personal stories of those involved…
Hi, I’m Lauren, a member of the Preservative Party. The Preservative Party is comprised of around twenty 14-24 year olds and we work with Leeds Museums and Galleries, especially Leeds City Museum, on projects and exhibitions for the general public. For the past few years we have been working towards our new exhibition called In Their Footsteps, which aims to tell the personal stories of people from Leeds who were involved in the First World War.
The project has been coming together extremely well and is now opening to the general public on the 1st July 2016- exactly 100 years since the start of the Battle of the Somme.
As a group we have done extensive research into the war and the impact that it had on people’s lives. We hope that our exhibition will move past statistics and evaluate the conflict and its impact in a much more personal way, one which includes stories of those who we may forget were affected by the it.
The most significant way that we have done this is by expanding the themes of our exhibition. Instead of making this a project that focuses solely on the experience of soldiers we have also researched the lives of the amazing women who also had a huge impact on the war effort. We wanted to give a voice to the courageous women who are often forgotten in traditional evaluations, due to the fact that they very rarely went right to the Front.
My research looked specifically at nursing stories of the First World War, and through our research we selected three key nurses whose lives we were going to follow. These nurses – Annie Storey, Lucy Manley and Violet Towers – all nursed in Leeds at some time during the war, then either moved elsewhere in the country or were shipped overseas. We were lucky to work with Special Collections at the University of Leeds who hold their archives as part of the Liddle Collection. Our research was supported and they have allowed us to loan the objects for the exhibition!
Each of these nurses has an amazing story that we have tried to tell.
My favourite story follows the life of Nurse Violet Towers. Violet nursed at Beckett’s Park hospital in Leeds throughout the War. It was on one of the wards that she met the man that she would later marry. Relationships between nurses and soldiers were not really encouraged, yet this couple managed to keep their relationship secret throughout the war, with Violet’s soon to be husband then following her overseas after the War. It was stories like these that we wanted to tell. We want to be able to show people that life went on and there was some semblance of normalcy even when this devastating war was gripping the world.
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