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World War I: Love and Sorrow – Laura and Sarah

Staff at Museum Victoria discuss the WWI Love and Sorrow exhibition.
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LAURA JAMES: This is my third visit to the exhibition, Sarah, and it certainly won’t be my last. It’s just such a rich collection; you can go back to it time and time again. You said that this particular exhibit is your favourite one. Have you got a favourite item in here that you’d like to talk about?
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SARAH BABBISTER: Yeah. Well, I particularly love the textile hanging on the mantelpiece. I just think it’s a really beautiful piece in terms of the manufacturing. And when I was working on this and preparing it for exhibition I thought often about the soldier that would’ve purchased this and sent it back his mother, and how it would’ve been hung in the family home. And it actually didn’t have the two images which are located there. Often objects that are in the collection or acquired are not complete, so for the interpretation for this display we actually added those images so that the public could understand how it would have looked when it was in the family home.
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LAURA JAMES: Yeah, so you’ve added some family photos?
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SARAH BABBISTER: Yeah, absolutely.
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LAURA JAMES: Well what’s so striking about this exhibition is the amount of family collections that are featured here. They’re not artefacts that have been stored away in a museum somewhere. I was just wondering about the process of community engagement and what challenges you’ve faced or any rewards that you get from it.
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SARAH BABBISTER: Well as a conservator, my role engaging with the community was helping objects to be selected and consulting on the treatment that was required. And that was a real privilege, because often with family collections people might not have the opportunity to have things conserved for long term preservation. So when the objects were brought into the lab, I would often write things like treatment reports and do examination and documentation and lay out what needed to be done in order for the object to be safely displayed.
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And I would consult with the family, and once I had their permission I would then go ahead and do the treatments and do such things as mounting, and often repairs and things like that, to get it ready so that it looks like this now.
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LAURA JAMES: Well, it’s so nice that they’ve been so generous that the public can view it here.
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SARAH BABBISTER: Absolutely.
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LAURA JAMES: Thanks for that.
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SARAH BABBISTER: You’re very welcome.
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World War 1: A History in 100 Stories

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