Unley Museum Wins National Award
The exhibition explored the personal experiences of soldiers of the 27th Australian Infantry Battalion when they returned home to resume their lives in Unley after battlefront service during the Great War.
It was based on research undertaken by Flinders University student Sandra Kearney, who in her written work ‘Unley’s Own - Returning Home’ explored the life stories of soldiers through personal accounts found in diaries and memoirs.
Memorabilia and souvenirs of war passed down through generations added a strong visual dimension to their experience from the trenches and after coming home.
City of Unley Mayor Michael Hewitson said he was ‘very pleased but not altogether surprised’ by the announcement.
‘This is exciting news and validates my own view that our small museum, under the stewardship of curator Karen Paris, punches well above its weight when it comes to creativity and connection with audiences. It’s amazing what Karen and her group of volunteers are achieving - this award, the fifth national award won by the museum in three years, recognises the high standard of that work.’
Working with local company Synthetic Creative, Karen realised a vision for how these stories could be brought to life in a tactile, sensory experience for visitors.
The exhibition included a WW1 trench decked with artefacts and digital technology, so when visitors climbed the trench to look through a periscope, they saw film of No Man’s Land and started to understand some of the soldiers’ life on the front lines.
Unley Museum has been recognised with two national MAGNA awards, and this is the second award Interpretation Australia has bestowed on the museum, the first in the under $15,000 category.
‘Interpretation Australia is a not-for-profit organisation which supports natural and cultural heritage interpretation in a way that communicates ideas, information and knowledge and creates engaging and unique experiences for visitors,’ she said.
‘The exhibition came about through a partnership between Flinders University, City of Unley and the Unley Museum. This partnership supported research conducted by Sandra Kearney to better understand the history of ‘Unley’s Own’, the soldiers of the 27th Battalion in the Great War. The Museum aims to become the receptacle of artefacts and knowledge about the Battalion, and, in particular, Unley’s soldiers.’
‘Even though the topic was about war and what a dreadful experience that was for many of our troops, the exhibition had a strong focus on the return to civilian life, examining the soldiers’ circumstances which were unique to the City of Unley. ‘
Researcher Sandra Kearney said ‘I had some fun with aspects of the project because I learned that going to war was, surprisingly, a positive experience for many young men who volunteered. I got to know these men, and they became “my boys”’.
‘There was an aural element, ‘Voices from the Front’, where an actor, dressed in period uniform, read memories from diaries and letters, which was edited into a video and projected on a wall next to the returned soldiers’ profiles. This really brought their observations and insights to life for visitors,’ Karen concluded.
Mayor Michael Hewitson congratulated everyone involved in the award.
‘A good exhibition should enrich a museum visitor’s experience by making it more meaningful and enjoyable, and assist the viewer appreciate and understand the heritage being examined, and this exhibition clearly hit all those marks,’ he said.
‘Our curator has recently put together another wonderful display about the history of cycling in Australia and I would encourage everyone to see that one too.’
Unley museum’s latest exhibition ‘On Ya Bike’ is open until 8 February 2020.