One of Reading Museum’s most significant outcomes from this project will be the Reading at War exhibition, due to open on 5 April 2014. Planning for our exhibitions can start two years in advance or even more, but by this stage the pressure is increasing as opening day approaches.
We’ve met our text deadline and sourced the images for the interpretation panels which were sent to our designer in early January. The logo (which you can see here and will be used in all the publicity, such as private view invitations and event flyers) has been created and we’re working hard with the University’s Film and Theatre Dept developing other content including the Second World War images and the Huntley & Palmers war biscuits ‘film’.
There is still a lot more to do: the fascinating facts, the interactives, the resource centre; taking out the current exhibition and repainting the gallery; not to mention finalising the selection of objects, working out an exciting way to display medals and completing loan arrangements. Loans for this exhibition include ‘Bobbie’, a stuffed dog from The Rifles Berkshire and Wiltshire Museum in Salisbury which houses the collections of the Royal Berkshire Regiment (http://www.thewardrobe.org.uk).
Bobbie was the mascot of the 66th Berkshire Regiment of Foot, who survived the Battle of Maiwand (a disastrous defeat for British and Indian forces towards the end of the Second Anglo-Afghan War, 1878-1880). He joined the regiment’s retreat to Kandahar, though wounded, and was presented to HM Queen Victoria at Osborne House in June 1881 alongside the human survivors! In 1882 while on a march with the regiment he was run over by a cab carrying a wedding party and one of the soldiers present had to be restrained from laying into the cabbie with his rifle butt. Bobbie was stuffed and preserved in a case with an Afghan campaign medal round his neck. (The photo, from the Reading Chronicle Collection, shows him being admired by guests at a ball in Brock Barracks on Oxford Road in 1949.)
Although the Reading at War exhibition marks the centenary of the First World War’s outbreak, it will explore how war throughout history has shaped Reading’s character – for example the Battle of Maiwand is commemorated by the Lion in the Forbury Gardens, a symbol of Reading for many. We hope the exhibition will be a focal point for the town to reflect on the impact of war.
Reading at War will run until Sunday 14 September 2014 and will be complemented by a full programme of events. Look at the exhibition entry on the Reading Museum website http://www.readingmuseum.org.uk/events/details/429/ for more information.
Angela Houghton (Collection Systems Curator) and the Reading Museum Exhibitions Department.
Images courtesy of Reading Museum (Reading Borough Council)