Building for the future at the National Army Museum

Building for the future at the National Army Museum

Tristan Langlois, Head of Learning at the National Army Museum
Tristan Langlois, Head of Learning at the National Army Museum, talks about HLF support for the Build for the Future project, and the diverse and challenging story of British Land Forces from the 1600s to the present day.

With the generous support of HLF, the National Army Museum’s Building for the Future project will rebuild, reinvent and relaunch the Museum in 2016.

The Museum’s Collection tells the diverse and challenging story of all British Land Forces in the UK and overseas from the 1600s to the present day, including the British Indian Army and colonial forces raised in Africa and the Caribbean. This drives our commitment to engage new, diverse audiences with that story. To be successful, we know we must work closely with those new, diverse audiences on our galleries and on our programmes.   At the heart of the new museum, therefore, is the Discovery Gallery where through our learning and engagement programme we enable communities to set the agenda and shape the gallery's content and interpretation.

Our military heritage is sometimes controversial, and we all live with its impact today.  The Museum’s Collection includes material taken in battle or during military campaigns all over the world. So, since 2011, we have explored that collection with over twenty different organisations representing different communities of origin from Sudan, Scotland, Pakistan, Germany, Ghana, China, India and the West Indies to explore these unique and sometimes difficult stories. 

Collaborative workshops have already transformed both our own, and our communities’ knowledge and understanding of our collection. The Discovery Gallery, associated programming and the Museum online will showcase and share their insights, and invite visitors to contribute their own. This in turn will ensure more and better access to that collection for new audiences in the future.

Sudanese collection workshop

We worked with Green Kordofan, Waging Peace, SudanHub Group and the Sudanese Community and Information Centre to explore our Sudanese collection. Participants worked with us at our store to examine a nihas, a jibbeh and a hippopotamus hide shield, all taken in battle by British and Anglo-Egyptian soldiers in Sudan in the 1880s.

Three things became clear:

  • The participants knew more about some of our collection than we did – so with their help we chose different and better objects for display
  • Participants had interests in areas that hadn’t occurred to us – so where they led, we followed
  • We all agreed could only scratch the surface – so together we are planning a programme of new workshops with new collections for next year

Next steps

UNICEF defines the four pillars of learning as learning to know, learning to be, learning to do and learning to live together. What function could be more important for any museum to fulfil in the 21st century? But we’re just getting started. And we can only continue on the journey of discovery and learning that will transform the Museum and its audiences with your help.

How to find out more

Discover more about the project on the National Army Museum website.

To find out more about forthcoming programmes, and how to get involved, please contact Claire Horan on tel: 0207 881 2421 or via email.

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