While I was in London for the MCG conference I was staying just around the corner from the Imperial War Museum so I decided to visit their exhibition ‘A Family in Wartime’. The exhibition was based on the Allpress family who lived in the local area, and how they dealt with the reality of wartime London and the effects on their daily lives. I was particularly interested in finding out more as my mum’s family are from east London and also lived through a similar experience, so would I be able to gain a better understanding of how they lived?The first part of the exhibition has a family tree on the wall with photographs of each family member, memories of their personalities, and an explanation of what they did during the war. There was also a large map of the local area the size of the whole wall showing the bomb damaged areas. I particularly liked the large model of the family’s house with all the period furniture and wallpaper. The model really helped me to visualise how such a large family fitted into the house and there was also a touchscreen version of the model that allowed you to explore the house in more detail, which I thought would work well for families.The rest of the exhibition was set out around re-creations of the different rooms of the Allpress house, using furniture from the period and including lots of objects that related to daily life. One of my favourite displays was ‘Make do and mend’, with clothing ration cards and booklets from the 1940’s on how to mend clothes, as well as posters promoting knitting and darning.The kitchen had a selection of posters promoting growing your own vegetables and cooking with food available on rations. I really liked the game designed for children that posed questions, then when you pressed the answer button you could look into the viewer and see the answer lit up.
There was a section on working lives, which explained where all the family worked during the war and had some fabulous posters promoting women helping the war effort and their safety in a factory. As well as another interactive screen with a timeline of the war and photos from each important event, there was a wall full of artwork related to the home front. There were paintings of women at work, people working on the land, bomb damage and lots of portraits. ‘A Family in Wartime’ had even recreated the Allpress bomb shelter so I had the chance to sit in it and imagine the whole family crammed in there overnight while bombs fell overhead. I thought the exhibition had a great mixture of information and objects coupled with interactive features to keep younger children involved and help them learn about how the local area of London was affected by the war. There were interviews with the family you could listen to and videos to explain more about how daily life changed during the war and the incredible way that everyone carried on and made the best of the situation.