Frederick Hadley

Second Curator, Historial de la Grande Guerre – Museum of the Great War in Péronne

  • My organization:
    The Historial, museum of the Great War, is a trilingual (English, French, German) cultural museum which seeks to show how the lives of combatants and civilians were drastically modified by the First World War. It insists on offering the visitor a multi-perspective approach to the total war that influenced the entire 20th century, and to encourage reflection on the consequences of these battles and the material traces which survive today.

  • Examples of concrete activities I have organized/am organizing in the field of “dealing with the past”:

    The Historial is in charge of the Thiepval Monument Visitor’s Centre. The monument itself is Franco-British and commemorates over 72 000 British and South-African soldiers of the battle of the Somme who have no known graves. I have been instrumental in organizing the exhibition on the Missing of the Somme: this exhibition retraces the stories of 180 soldiers who have no known grave and explains how Remembrance has developed until nowadays in the United Kingdom. In partnership with the associations “Le pas de côté” and the IF-Man, we have organized a day of cooperative games to introduce the notion of non-violent resolution of conflicts to our visitors.

  • Concrete challenges I am facing in my “dealing with the past”-related work:

    The museum systematically compares the soldiers and societies in Germany, France and Great-Britain. If some visitors complain that Germany occupied the top row of our three levels, it is more complicated to find correct translations as the mentalities are not the same. In Germany, the image of the soldier is not always positive whereas in Great-Britain, the “Tommies” are viewed as heroes. During battlefield tours, this can for example cause frictions when wreaths are laid on the tombs of German soldiers. The bodies of many soldiers are still regularly found on the battlefield. Though this is not longer a “hot” subject, it still is cause for concern and diplomatic discussions, notably when economic growth is hindered by memorials.

  • My personal link to/interest for the topic of “dealing with difficult pasts”:
    In preparation for the 2014-2018, we are considering remodelling the museum and specifically the last room of the permanent exhibition which deals with the consequences of the 1914–1918 war. I have been working with the pedagogical department on the possibility of creating activities around the notion of peace and non-violence. This could be workshops comparing events of the times and inter-personal conflicts in schools but we might also develop the theme as major axis of the museum in helping people understand why the First World War still has an impact on us today. This has not yet been finalized. For example, I have published a short article on attempts by a pacifist to rebuild communications between Europeans in the 1920’s and 1930’s. I hope to use such examples in the museum presentation and activities. I will be publishing a short article on the conflicting Memorials built in Hamburg, Germany in the 1930’s.