Extraordinary true stories: An interactive journey through history25 February 2020
Delve deeper into Queensland’s war history than ever before at the newly refurbished ANZAC Square Memorial Galleries.
The heartbreaking and heroic stories of Queenslanders involved in conflicts from World War I to the present is the focus of the newly refurbished ANZAC Square Memorial Galleries.
The largely digital exhibition can be found in the rooms below the Shrine of Remembrance and took more than a year to create. The changes – curated by the State Library of Queensland – were part of a larger refurbishment of ANZAC Square that began in 2013.
INSIDE THE MEMORIAL GALLERIES
Anna Thurgood, Engagement Officer, Queensland Memory, State Library of Queensland, led the content curation of the Galleries. As she worked on the project, Anna felt an affinity with many of the individuals who featured in the exhibition and was amazed by their incredible stories.
“I was really struck by how young these men and women were. Their faces are just like people I know, my friends,” says Anna.
“So, I guess it really became a personal connection through working with the collections.”
WWI – THE ORIGINAL MEMORIAL SPACE
ANZAC Square was first opened on Armistice Day in 1930 as a memorial to the service and sacrifice of Queenslanders in WWI. The recent restoration work aims to ensure the continued use and relevance of the Square for current and future generations.
If you enter via the bronze door at the western side of the square, the newly updated Galleries take visitors on a chronological journey that first passes through the long hallway of the WWI Memorial Crypt. This area contains mainly plaques, together with a video screen of images and two touchscreens: one dedicated to the individual stories of 21 Queenslanders and the other to the battalions and regiments Queenslanders served in.
Around 57,700 Queenslanders served in WWI and about 10,000 of them didn’t come home.
The corridor opens into a large room that houses the WWII exhibition, which includes a series of large flat touchscreens in the centre of the room, with a massive digital projection screen and plaques honouring various battalions, regiments and squadrons on the walls.
“We worked very collaboratively with the exhibition designers to come up with this idea of a plotting table, which contains some individual stories, because I think they carry the most emotional impact,” says Anna.
The plotting table is hugely interactive, and visitors can explore maps of Queensland, timelines of the progression of the war and glimpses into the lives of men and women involved in and impacted by the conflict.
DYNAMIC POST-WWII SPACE
The third section of the gallery covering post-WWII is the most dynamic of the three spaces. Five touchscreens are joined together on the wall, containing newly commissioned digital stories of
individuals who’ve served in various conflicts or peacekeeping missions since 1945.
You can listen to stories, view photo galleries, interact with world maps, take quizzes, learn how we commemorate ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day and more.
ORGANISE A FREE SCHOOL VISIT
School visits to the Galleries are a great way for students to develop a richer understanding of Queensland’s military history. Free tours last for 60 minutes and learning resources are also available. Visit the Anzac Square website for more information.
“We really want schools to visit. There’s so much material here – it’s very rich, layered and deep,” says Anna.
EXTERNAL ENHANCEMENTS KEEP SQUARE RELEVANT
Numerous enhancements were also made to the external areas of the Square, including rectifying structural defects and major landscaping works. The three pathways were retained, which represent the three arms of the Defence Forces and lead through the park to the central focus of the Square, the Shrine of Remembrance.
Robyn Hamilton, Lead, Collection Building, Queensland Memory, State Library of Queensland, says one of the highlights is the new memorial screens. They are made from bronze, designed to offer dignity and a sense of permanence.
“They contain hundreds of place names from around Queensland,” Robyn explains.
“They’re meant to remind people that war happens to everybody, not just those who enlist, that the impact of conflict spreads through an entire community.
“And it really reinforces the idea that this Square is a Square for all of Queensland. It’s not just a Brisbane Square. It’s our state memorial so it reflects all of us.”
Robyn has three ancestors who served in WWI, both her grandfathers served in WWII, and she herself was in the Army Reserves for seven years. She says it’s important to ensure the exhibition is relatable and relevant and honours service people both past and present.