‘Remembering World War One’ Module
Anna Young, Assistant Curator
Research & Cultural Collections, University of Birmingham
During the first week of spring term, Research and Cultural Collections welcomed students from the first cohort of the new English module, Remembering World War One. This module is set to run for the duration of the commemorative period and is designed to introduce students to the shock of the war – its historical, cultural and psychological enormity and incomprehensibility – as it was expressed by writers who experienced it and lived through its aftermath.
The students also explore and critically analyse the continuing significance of the War and its cultural mythology within literary history from 1914 to the present day.
Using objects as a way to emotionally connect with the experiences of those they would later come on to study, we looked at the stories of two particular individuals – the Matron of the First Southern General Hospital, Kathleen Lloyd and Raymond Lodge, an officer in the South Lancashire Regiment and the son of the University’s first Principal Sir Oliver Lodge, who died in the trenches at Flanders in 1915.
The students were introduced to the background context of academic output and involvement during the war and the changes to campus life. Objects examined included a quilt produced by convalescing soldiers at the campus-based First Southern General Hospital and through this, we looked at conditions in the hospital for soldiers and staff and craft as both therapy and recreation. Through objects related to Raymond Lodge, we looked at trench life for officers, his family and the Lodge’s interest in spiritualism.
Discussions on the topics raised were prompted by the course leads, Deborah Longworth and David Griffiths and parallels drawn with material they would encounter later in the course. The session proved to be an interesting new avenue, introducing the University’s heritage collection to students who have previously not had experience of using material culture as a source.
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