Continuing on from the post introducing our recent visit to the Australian War Memorial, we now move into the Memorial’s museum area, which houses an extensive collection of war related relics and interpretive displays.
Over the years, Australia has accumulated an historically significant collection of war related items, but the collection lacked a permanent venue for public display until major works in the 1980’s and 1990’s added the side galleries and the Anzac Hall to the original Memorial building.
The curators of the museum deserve great credit for what they have achieved. The story of Australia’s participation in armed conflicts is exceptionally well presented, and exhibits provide broad overviews of each conflict as well as very personal insights using individuals’ stories and items they carried or fabricated. Exhibits are categorised by individual conflicts/theatre of war and deliver an easily followed chronological progression spanning early colonial involvement in events like the Boer War (1899-1902) through to the still current involvement in Afghanistan.
Significantly, the exhibits do not seek to glorify war or present judgmental opinions about those we fought against. More they strive to impart a clear sense of the life, challenges, and dangers faced by active service person in the conflicts Australia has been involved with.
Photography-wise, the exhibits presented quite a few challenges. I chose to snap away using just the exhibition lighting to avoid flash lighting disturbing others, and because some of the displays were simply too large for a single flash to properly illuminate. Some of the exhibits were quite dark or lit with spot lights. This enhanced the moods and interpretative themes the curators were attempting to invoke, but forced the use of high ISOs (1600, 3200 and even 6400 on occasion); required care not to burn out to white the spot lit sections; and was a bit of a nightmare for white balance management. As a result, I would not call my images particularly good from a technical perspective. However, the fact that they worked at all was pleasing. The Pentax K-x I used is pretty well regarded for good performance in low light, and allowed me to correctly expose for the highlights and leave the shadows to do their own thing, expecting I could recover poorly lit areas once I loaded images to a computer for editing. The wide aperture of the Tamron 17-50 F2.8 lens was also a great assistance. I would have really struggled with a slow kit lens and a camera with poorer low light performance.
So bear those qualifications in mind when browsing through the following images, which show just a fraction of the Memorial’s exhibits.
And coming in Part 3, an exploration of Australia’s war time aviation history.