On Sunday 14 May Team New Focus ventured to the Imperial War Museum in London. We had all been looking forward to the trip since we started the project back in autumn last year and for me it has been one of the major highlights of the project so far. For lots of us it was our first time visiting the Imperial War Museum and for some members it was their first-time visiting London! Weary eyed but full of excitement, we caught an early train from Bradford at 9:00am.
We stayed at the Days Hotel, Waterloo, just a 5-minute walk from the Imperial War Museum. Once we had checked in at the hotel and dropped off our bags. We had lunch in the gardens of the museum. This gave us all afternoon to look around, starting with the WWI gallery. The gallery was very impressive and covered all aspects of the First World War, including the roles of women. Once we had finished looking around the WWI gallery we had some time to look around the rest of the museum. I wish we had more time to see everything, but it would probably take a whole two days to look around the entire museum.
The next day, we visited the Imperial War Museum Archive, where we met with world-famous curator of photography Hilary Roberts, who provided us with an inspiring and insightful talk on the history of the museum and women in war photography. She spoke of how ‘training and profession are not everything’ and for many conflict photographers ‘access is key’. This is certainly true for many of the female photographers we have been learning about.
During our research session at the archive we looked at albums relating to Olive Edis, Florence Farmborough, and a professional photographer who we hadn’t come across before, Christina Broom, who was commissioned to photograph guard’s regiments and household cavalry and became an official photographer for the Royal family. We split up into three groups each focusing on a different photographer, and we picked two of our favourite images to write about. We then swapped around and looked at the other albums. It was difficult to pick just two photographs to focus on as there were so many thought-provoking images. The whole experience was very special and completely different to viewing the photographs online. I felt we could connect with the physical photographs and the stories they told on a much deeper level than we were able to from viewing them online.
After lunch, we discussed as a team the images we had chosen, what we thought they depicted and why we had chosen them. Before heading home, we were also given a mini tour behind the scenes of the archive and a final chance to look around the museum.
We are all extremely grateful the staff at the Imperial War Museum Archive for allowing us to visit and we would also like to offer special thanks to Hilary Roberts for her time and help.
This project is supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund ‘Young Roots’ scheme