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Talks bring end to Armistice exhibition

Armidale Folk Museum’s Sorrow, Celebration and Social Change exhibition will offer further insight to life during World War 1 when the museum hosts talks by two experts on Saturday 2 February at 2.30pm.

The presentations by Dr Nathan Wise and Bronwyn Parry, focusing on the effects of the war on soldiers and citizens, will conclude the exhibition.

Dr Wise, a University of New England Associate Professor, will explore how Australian soldiers reacted to news of the Armistice and what they thought peace might mean. Many reflected on what the war and their service had been about and almost all began to think anxiously about what their future might hold.

“In all cases it’s evident it was a moment they used to think about who they had become and what type of civilian they would be,” Dr Wise said.

The Senior Lecturer in Public and Applied History has spent 15 years researching the experiences of Australian soldiers during World War 1, based largely on their letters and diaries.

“For the bulk of their time in the army, these men wrote about how they longed for an end to the war. When that moment finally came on 11 November 1918, the expected excitement largely failed to materialise and they responded by writing in a sombre tone,” he said.

“A sense of shock, disbelief and sorrow permeated their writing. Many were sceptical of the news, following earlier false rumour, and they were exhausted from the previous months of the Allied offensive.

“For us today, it’s a moment to think about the ongoing cost of conflict around the world.”

He said Australians returned from Europe in 1918 and 1919 continued to fight their private battles in post-war Australia. The war never really ended for the vast bulk of them.

Local writer and historian Bronwyn Parry said the war’s implications were slow to take effect in education and employment for women but it had a remarkable impact on fashion.

Before World War 1, Australian women donned corsets, skirts and blouses embellished with frills and lace, to replicate their British background. During the war, any expenditure on fashion was seen as an extravagant luxury which could be better spent as a donation to assist Australian men fighting overseas.

"Fashion magazines only tell us a certain amount about what women wore, and many museum collections focus on formal and designer outfits which may have only been worn once,” she said.

“However, the Folk Museum's collection has many items worn by middle class women and provides insight to the everyday lives of women in Armidale during the war.

Ms Parry’s background includes an Honours degree thesis on 18th century textiles, and a range of work experiences from dance teacher to academic. She has published several books and won the Australian Romance Readers’ award for best Australian romantic suspense novel.

She founded the Armidale Costume and Historical Arts Group to share her passion for historical costumes. The group meets regularly to share and explore a variety of historical clothing, from the Renaissance era to steampunk and vintage.

The Armidale Folk Museum is open daily from 11am to 2pm and is located on the corner of Rusden and Faulkner Streets. Entry is by donation.

 

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