Research at IWM aims to develop understanding of the history of modern war and wartime experience through our rich and diverse collections. In this blog we introduce you to the work which the Department of Research and Academic Partnerships co-ordinates in order to further this aim. IWM Collections cover all aspects of twentieth and twenty-first century conflict involving Britain, the Commonwealth and other former countries of the Empire, and embraces objects, film, testimonies, books, documents and photographs. We will bring you news of:
The Holocaust Exhibition was ten years old last year, and giving talks about its impact is a rewarding thing to do. Visitor figures – at 7-800 a day – are still high. The subject has become mainstream after years of being marginalised, and films, tv programmes and books still appear each month with new slants, and new questions.
Back in Sarajevo. I call in on Muhamed Mujkic, who co-directed the Memorial Room film with the British documentary maker Leslie Woodhead, at his office at the Federation for Missing Persons. His job is to document the excavations of mass graves found in Bosnia – something he has now done for 15 years. Last year a new mass grave was found–when a damming project at Perucac Lake caused a river bed to yield up its terrible secret – their work is far from over.
Wood-smoke curls through the darkness as I make my way to Sarajevo’s bus station for the 7am daily bus to Srebrenica. It’s my first visit to Bosnia since 2007 when the Srebrenica Memorial Room opened, a project initiated by Lord Ashdown, then High Representative in Bosnia Hercegovina, and supported by the IWM.
A delegation comes from the Wellcome Trust – to hear what we are doing on the medical history front. It’s a great opportunity to let them hear and see just how strong are our collections on this topic. Inevitably the medical treatment of wounded soldiers is a running theme in our collections – whether recruiting posters for Red Cross nurses in the First World War or films urging soldiers to protect themselves against malaria in the Second. But there are wider themes you can explore here too – there are few aspects of war which did not impinge on health also.
The Muswell Hill studio is flooded with sunlight and all around are paintings of flowers in radiant reds, yellows and blues. I have come to visit Alicia Melamed Adams, the Holocaust survivor whose paintings and whose story I wrote up as one of the chapters of Justice, Politics and Memory in Europe after the Second World War published this summer. We did the interviews in this studio a year ago, sifting through her old family photographs and going over the details of her family’s horrendous wartime ordeal.
The wooden library trolley creaks into our Board Room. Piled on its shelves are around twenty boxes of transcripts made by the BBC Monitoring Service during and after the Second World War. Around the table are gathered four academics – Professor Hilary Footitt, Professor David Welch, Dr Alban Webb and Dr Peter Busch – who have kindly agreed to give us their thoughts on where we go next with this large, academically potent collection.