The Gallipoli military campaign (April 1915–January 1916) was a brutal episode in the First World War that resulted in over 130,000 deaths across both sides of the conflict. The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) played a significant role in this campaign, and in 2015 the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa opened an exhibition exploring the conflict through first hand accounts of those who were there.
The exhibition titled Gallipoli: The Scale of Our War was a collaboration between the museum and Weta Workshop. We first really heard about the exhibition earlier in the day during our visit to the Weta Workshop. During our tour of the workshop, our guide told us about making the 8 models for the exhibition – which took 24,000 hours to make and were x2.4 times human size! The models show real individuals and were created with great care and incredible attention to detail, with each hair painstakingly added one at a time. The models were of Spencer Westmacott, Percival Fenwick, Jack Dunn, Colin Warden, Friday Hawkins, Rikihana Carkeek, Lottie Le Gallais and Cecil Malthus. They were incredibly lifelike – and I think we can all agree the creators at Weta are extraordinarily talented artists.
Upon entering the exhibition, the lights are immediately dimmer and in the circular room you see a model of Lieutenant Spencer Westmacott. As you walk around him, you can see him lying on his side, injured, whilst still shooting at the opposing side. After passing through this initial room we then entered the first main interpretation area, which goes into detail about Westmacott’s story and how as a result of his injury he lost his arm.
The interpretation area was the first of a several which were all separated by smaller rooms featuring the Weta Workshop models. The interpretation areas combined the use of traditional exhibition panels with “3-D maps and projections, miniatures, models, dioramas, and a range of interactive experiences“. This allowed visitors to engage with the exhibition in different ways, with the exhibition having a clear route that led you through the beginning of the Gallipoli campaign to its bitter end. The curation was really well done, as having the models separate in their own rooms allowed them to stand out, and you came face to face with the emotional realities of the devastating Gallipoli campaign without being distracted by bright screens or interpretation panels.
I learnt so much as I walked around the exhibition, and you grew invested in the different stories you read about – rooting for them to survive. It was tragic to read how some of them died, and how young they were.
I left the exhibition feeling incredibly moved by what I’d seen, and it brought home what a damn waste war is.
Gallipoli: The Scale of Our War is one of the most popular exhibitions Te Papa has ever had, and I’m not surprised, as it’s incredibly well researched and curated. It does what all good museums should do – bring our histories to life and show us the past so we might learn in the present.
You can find more resources relating to the exhibition on the museum’s website, including behind the scenes videos of how the exhibition came together. If you ever get the chance to visit this exhibition, I couldn’t recommend it highly enough.
Gallipoli casualties by country: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/media/interactive/gallipoli-casualties-country
Te Papa: https://www.tepapa.govt.nz/visit/exhibitions/gallipoli-scale-our-war
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