Earlier this year Keith Conlon filmed a piece for us on the history of the National War Memorial in Adelaide. He reflected on its significance to South Australians and shared a little of his family connection with the tragic events of the First World War.
Working in museums, and social history more broadly, we can get a bit cynical about the portrayal of grand narratives around war and remembrance. I’ve heard more than a few cries of ‘don’t mention the war’ since the Anzac centenary commemorations began. In my own work I’ve done my best to look at some of the less dominant narratives such as home front history, knitting for the troops and Violet Day. As historians the grand narratives, and even the mythology that grows around the events of the First World War, can also be seen an opportunity. With the focus on remembrance comes a chance to re-examine those histories, and unpack what the myths mean to us today.
Last night, as part of our regular ‘Talking History’ sessions, Dr Richard Reid reminded us that it is important to put the complex individual stories back into Remembrance. Many of us, like Keith Conlon, have a connection, to the events of the First World War, or to other conflicts. Remembrance Day offers us all an opportunity to reflect on our own histories, and the individual stories big and small that have contributed to the make up of our community.