National Memory – Local Stories

This project has now been archived and is no longer being updated.

National Memory – Local Stories was a creative participation project, funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, and led by the National Portrait Gallery, London, in partnership with Media 19 and five national and local area museums across the UK: National Museums Northern Ireland, National Museums Scotland, Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales, The Rifles Berkshire and Wiltshire Museum and Redbridge Museum, London.

The project explored how collection objects with local stories could inspire young people to make their own work and deepen their engagement with the complexities of the First World War during the period of the centenary commemorations.

The five National Memory – Local Stories partner museums all offered a range of exhibitions, programmes and activities during the First World War centenary commemoration period. 

The National Portrait Gallery commemorated the centenary of the First World War with a four-year programme of exhibitions, displays, public events and learning projects. The outcomes of National Memory – Local Stories, including a Learning Resource, informed the Gallery's schools and public programmes during the First World War Centenary Period.

National Museums Northern Ireland's First World War programme involved three inter-related elements: changes to the modern history galleries at the Ulster Museum (linked to complementary learning activities) a programme of temporary exhibitions; and collection digitisation linked to on-line publication. The new Modern History galleries contained a new section Home Rule to Partition, with an enhanced focus on the First World War. A temporary exhibition - Answer the Call - based on the Museum's collection of First World War posters, opened in May 2014. National Museums Northern Ireland also collaborated with Queen's University, Belfast, and the University of Ulster to establish a First World War Coordinating Centre, 'Living Legacies' - one of five in the UK supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. An exhibition of the work produced by the National Memory – Local Stories Northern Ireland workshop participants and affiliated artist took place in November 2013.

National Museums Scotland held two exhibitions to mark the centenary of the First World War. Common Cause: Commonwealth Scots and the Great War, at the National Museum of Scotland (11 July to 12 October 2014) explored the stories of the Scottish diaspora and the war experiences of the nations of the Commonwealth during the First World War. Next of Kin began at the National War Museum in Edinburgh Castle (April 2014-March 2015) before touring around Scotland until 2017. The personal memories instilled in the museum’s collections reflected a range of stories about the experience and human cost of the First World War. National Museums Scotland offered a range of big events, adult talks, costumed interpreters, family and school programming to mark the centenary years. The work produced by the National Memory – Local Stories Scotland workshop participants and affiliated artist was shown at big events at the National Museum of Flight and to secondary school pupils as part of the schools programme.

Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales explored how the people of Wales responded to the call to war, sharing views on how it affected people at home and impacted those fighting and working in the arenas of war. It also explored how skills, attitudes and beliefs changed throughout the period and in the aftermath of war. The four-year programme of events and exhibitions began in spring 2014, when the public were invited to join staff and sow poppy seeds to remember those who have fallen in all wars. For the rest of the commemoration period, the poppies provided a reminder and a place to gather and reflect. National Museum Cardiff began its commemorations on 2 August 2014 with the opening of Efforts and Ideals: Prints of the First World War. This exhibition brought together a series of lithographic prints commissioned by the Ministry of Information in 1917, to encourage a war-weary public and raise support for the war effort. The prints illustrated changing attitudes in society, such as women’s role during the War, and include work by some of Wales and Britain’s finest artists such as Augustus John and Frank Brangwyn. The National Memory Local Stories workshop experience inspired a strong response by young people to the Efforts and Ideals prints. The creative outcomes from National Memory Local Stories were displayed at the same time as the exhibition at National Museum Cardiff.

During 2014, Redbridge Museum, London, with the support of an award from the Heritage Lottery Fund, recruited and trained a team of volunteers to work in partnership with Redbridge Information & Heritage, local historians, regional and national museums and archives, local schools and residents to explore the impacts of the First World War on Ilford, Wanstead and Woodford (today's London Borough of Redbridge). This ambitious research programme culminated in the documentation and interpretation of material to create a new major exhibition at Redbridge Museum; a new website; a publication; a new schools education session; family events and touring displays. A display of the work produced by the National Memory Local Stories Redbridge workshop participants and affiliated artist was included in Museum's 2014 exhibition.

The Rifles Berkshire and Wiltshire Museum marked each year of the commemoration period with a new display showing a particular event the county regiments were involved in 100 years ago:

2014: The Country goes to War. Examined mobilisation and the first battles of the war, including Mons 23 – 24 August 1914 and Le Cateau 26 August 1914. 1 August – 7 September there was a special exhibition of the work of the National Memory – Local Stories workshop participants and the affiliated artist. The exhibition displayed the participants’ and artist’s creative response to the diaries of two Wiltshire soldiers, Sergeant Munday and Sergeant Coudrey, as well as other objects from the Museum’s collection that inspired the work.
2015: The Gallipoli Campaign 25 April 1915 – 9 January 1916, and the Battle of Loos 25 September – 13 October 1915.
2016: The Battle of the Somme 1 July – 18 November 1916.
2017: The Middle East, the third battle of Gaza 1 – 2 November 1917, and the capture of Jerusalem 17 November to 30 December 1917.
2018: The German Spring Offensive 21 March – 7 August 1918 and the final British and Allied offensive The Last One Hundred Days 8 August – 11 November 1918. The Armistice, victory, peace and the aftermath.