National Museums Scotland has unveiled its programme to commemorate the centenary of the First World War.

Plans to mark the centenary of the First World War were announced today by National Museums Scotland. The programme includes exhibitions at the National Museum of Scotland and the National War Museum, a national touring exhibition, participation in a UK-wide learning project with young people and a series of public events for adults and young people.

The programme, which is part of the international First World War Centenary Partnership, a national and international programme of commemorative events, was launched at the National War Museum at Edinburgh Castle.

Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop MSP said:

“We must never forget the impact that the First World War had on our country, our families and our communities.

“These exhibitions will give people across Scotland the opportunity to learn about how World War One changed Scotland and the wider world forever. It is especially important that the younger generation are able to learn about these life-changing events and that they have the opportunity to know the depth of human fortitude and sacrifice that took place.”

Dr Gordon Rintoul, Director of National Museums Scotland said:

“The First World War affected millions of Scots, whether at home or in service, and people of Scottish descent all over the world. Behind the bare statistics of war, there are countless individual stories of heroism and loss, triumph and tragedy. Many of the objects in our collection are deeply linked to these stories and individuals, and provide a tangible link to events which, a century on, have passed from living memory. Our programme of commemoration will share the Scottish memory of these world-changing events with national and international visitors.”

The National Museums Scotland commemorative programme will align with the work of the Scottish Commemorations Panel, established by the Scottish Government to advise on how the Centenary may be appropriately marked in Scotland.

Common Cause: Commonwealth Scots and the Great War, at the National Museum of Scotland (11 July to 12 October 2014), will explore the stories of the Scottish diaspora and the war experiences of the nations of the Commonwealth during the First World War. In 1914, as the world prepared for war, thousands of men enlisted in Scotland. But thousands more Scots and those of Scottish descent joined up across the world, and the exhibition will show how they emphasised, adapted or in some cases downplayed their Scottish identities within the context of the armed forces of their home countries.

The exhibition will be built around key objects borrowed from the UK and international partners in Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, some of the main destination countries of the Scottish diaspora. Through contemporaneous newsreel and photography and the words of participants, the exhibition will explore how the war was experienced and commemorated in different parts of the British Empire, and how military service was related to other expressions of Scottish identity and culture such as Caledonian societies, Presbyterianism and piping.

Artefacts from the collections of National Museums Scotland associated with individual war experiences will reinforce the main themes of migration, dual identity and loss, and extend the geographical scope of the exhibition.

The exhibition is supported by the Scottish Government, who has provided support for the exhibition as part of the ‘Year of Homecoming 2014’.

The exhibition Next of Kin will begin at the National War Museum in Edinburgh Castle (April 2014 – March 2015) before touring around Scotland until 2018. The personal memories inherent in National Museums’s collections reflect a range of stories about the experience and human cost of the First World War. They show how families coped with the absence and loss of their loved ones, and used objects to remember them. Through a selection of these family treasures, the exhibition Next of Kin will present a portrait of Scotland at war, where the private lives of Scottish families will introduce some of the major themes and events of the conflict across the fighting fronts and its aftermath.

Next of Kin will tour eight venues around Scotland thanks to support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and The Scottish Government and will be accompanied by digital and learning resources. As the exhibition tours, the venues will develop additional content and stories related to their local areas. The results of these additional contributions will be captured and preserved in an online resource. There will also be an associated training programme to develop new skills among the participating organisations.

Colin McLean, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) in Scotland, said:

“The First World War changed the face of modern history, touching the lives of everyone in this country and beyond. HLF has committed to funding a variety of projects, from organisations, large and small, which will create a deeper understanding of the heritage of the conflict. Some of these will capture the memories of individual soldiers; some will reveal the importance and uncover stories around local war memorials, whilst others like Next of Kin will bring to life the impact war had on family life across the country. We have already supported over £28m of projects from across the United Kingdom and will continue to support as many applications as we can afford that want to commemorate the centenary.”

The learning project National Memory – Local Stories (Autumn 2013- Autumn 2014) is part of a UK-wide project working with groups of young people in partnership with the National Portrait Gallery in London. As the stories and knowledge of the First World War are no longer in living memory they are becoming increasingly distant from young people. National Museums Scotland will work with up to 20 high school pupils and an artist (to be identified). They will use the collections of National Museums Scotland as a focus for the development of their personal response to issues raised by the centenary.

In 2018, the centenary of the end of the war will be marked with an exhibition at the National War Museum exploring the story of Poppies, the symbol of remembrance as well as a means of raising funds for ex-Service personnel. The original inspiration came from Canadian Scot John MacRae’s 1915 poem ‘In Flanders Field’, where the poppy was the only thing which grew in the aftermath of the complete devastation. Inspired by the poem,American humanitarian Moina Michael began selling poppies to friends to raise money for the ex-Service community. The first ‘Poppy Day’ in the UK was in 1921. In 1922 the Poppy Factory opened in London, providing work for injured ex-service personnel, and in 1926 Lady Haig opened Scotland’s own factory. Like other countries in the Commonwealth Scotland has her own distinctive poppy. The Edinburgh factory now produces around 5 million poppies and 8,000 wreaths annually, all handmade by disabled former service personnel.

In addition to the special exhibitions and learning project described above, National Museums Scotland will also develop an extensive programme of lectures, events and activities for schools and the public about the First World War. This programme will be focused at the National War Museum, the National Museum of Scotland and the National Museum of Flight.

Notes to Editors

  • National Museums Scotland is one of the leading museum groups in Europe and looks after collections of national and international importance. The organisation provides loans, partnerships, research and training in Scotland and internationally. Our four museums are the National Museum of Scotland, the National Museum of Flight, the National Museum of Rural Life and the National War Museum. The National Museums Collection Centre in Edinburgh houses conservation and research facilities as well as collections not currently on display.

  • The National War Museum in Edinburgh Castle has six permanent galleries which explore Scotland’s military history from the 17th century to the present day, from world-changing events to the everyday life of Scottish servicemen. Objects on display include uniforms, insignia, medals, decorations, weapons, paintings, ceramics and silverware, including many objects and stories connected to the First World War.

  • The First World War Centenary Partnership, established by the Imperial War Museum, is a network of over 1,800 cultural and educational not-for-profit organisations from 39 countries, who are producing a collective programme of events, activities and resources from 2014 to 2018 to mark the centenary, with over 500 new exhibitions and galleries opening around the world.

6 November 2013

For more information or images, please contact Bruce Blacklaw, Susan Gray or Ruth Mackie, tel 0131 247 4165, or emailmedia@nms.ac.uk

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