National Army Museum: Conflicts of Interest
Conflicts of Interest is a new gallery dedicated to the modern British Army. It explores both the positive and negative aspects of Army life for the individual soldier, and investigates the role of the British Army on the world stage, focusing on Northern Ireland, the Falklands, the Gulf, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Underpinning all this are the conflicts of interest inherent in Army life: the idea of enforcing peace through violent means; upholding the principles of the military covenant and the struggles soldiers face when juggling work and family commitments. No other exhibition looks so closely at these conflicts in one space; none focuses on the range of issues found in Conflicts of Interest.
Conflicts of Interest was planned from the outset with the idea that it must be kept relevant and up to date. The Museumcontinues to update the gallery with new content to reflect the changing face of conflict and is adding to its collectionsof artefacts, images and oralhistory; the media perspective can be updated within 48 hours. Visitors themselves update the exhibition by writing feedback and casting votes in the interactive area, Conflicting Opinions.
The National Army Museum tells the story of the British soldier, to show how the actions of a few can affect the futures of many, and how Britain’s past has helped to shape the world. The 6.2 million objects in its care illustrate the stories of men and women from 1066 to the present day and the Museum aims to interpret these in ways which inspire and provide enjoyment.
Project cost: £573,000
The National Army Museum created Conflicts of Interest with support from designers Met Studio and interactive agency GR/DD.
Some of your comments:
It was a very moving and powerful gallery. Having people talking about their experiences of conflict brought them to life. It showed the courage and suffering of those involved in conflict without glorifying warfare. Museums tend to deal with the past which is a comfortable place because you know the outcome. This gallery was brave enough to look at current conflicts like Afghanistan which raise questions we still have to address. This gave the museum and unique and very contemporary aspect.
Whilst we all despair at the futility and horror of war it is, unfortunately, intrinsic to the shaping of our current society. To ignore the history of war is to ignore the mistakes and capability of man to inflict pain upon other human beings. The National Army Museum enables the visitor to gain an insight into the multiple aspects of war. You leave with an understanding that war, whilst not the answer, can sometimes be the only action available.
'Conflicts of Interest' explains recent and crucial military conflicts in an accessible and imaginative way. Given the importance of war, and Britain's role in warfare, it is vital that there is an informed public debate about military engagement and its consequences. The exhibition is well-organised and inter-active. The use of multiple sources makes the experience engaging but more crucially the exhibition encourages visitors to engage with debates and to consider the reasons for each of the conflicts it describes.
It is a unique museum in that it changes all the time, depending on the enormous work and skill which our brave young men deal with 24 hours a day. They put their lives at risk all the time, and this is a fact which is only now percolating through to a great many people, due to Help for Heroes and other charities. This museum reflects our National History better than any other because it actually affects so many people's lives individually and collectively.
'Conflicts of Interest' is a fantastic representation of the great work that the National Army Museum produces time after time. Their commitment to education (for all ages!), intellect, and general interest is particularly important given the nature of the subject that the National Army Museum works with.
The exhibition looks beyond the media headlines and explores conflicting interests of enforcing peace through a violent means, balancing global security with the needs of vulnerable communities and the demands of the job on the personal lives of our troops. It is thoroughly beautiful and is totally interactive engaging with not only older people but younger as well.
Having attended several exhibitions in recent months I found the Army Museum particularly moving due the emotion poured in the exhibits highlighting the good work our troops are doing in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is important to have such an impressive and well designed representation of, and information about our troops so people like me can appreciate the dedication and professionalism they have used to defend our country for the last 500 years, it is these qualities that I can see reflected in the displays on show at this establishment.
I think the National Army Museum should win because of the clarity of its exhibits, and the way the whole museum is laid out; because of the friendliness of the museum staff, especially those working the floors; because it takes a difficult subject - the military and war - and makes it understandable for the public. And because it's a fun museum, with great talks from experts, and interactive weekends.
I have recently attended a course of instruction at the NAM, part of which was to study the Conflicts of Interest Gallery from a museum employee’s perspective. Having previously served as a soldier in many of the conflict areas referred to and also having being married for much of my service, I can easily identify with the story and content presented in the Gallery, comparing it to real life experience. The Gallery is very well researched and in focus for all who have served and therefore by default presents an accurate understanding to those who visit the museum who have not served. It is in my opinion deserving of a prize for its sheer presence and informative stance, excellent.