Next of Kin Exhibition Shares Mementos and Memories of the First World War

4th November 2016

Next of Kin, an exhibition created by National Museums Scotland, opens on 11th November at Perth Museum & Art Gallery and the Black Watch Museum in Perth. It presents a picture of Scotland during the First World War through treasured objects from official and private sources, passed to close relatives and down through generations.

The exhibition was previously shown at the National War Museum in Edinburgh Castle, and the display will be shared between The Black Watch Castle and Museum and Perth Museum and Art Gallery as the seventh and eighth of nine touring venues around Scotland. It is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Scottish Government. Both venues have added material from their own collections to tell local stories which reflect the themes of the exhibition.

Perth Museum & Art Gallery will tell the story of Private Alexander Malcolm of the 6th Battalion (Perthshire Division) Black Watch who fought and was wounded at the Second Battle of Passchendale in November 1917. Alongside a selection of his personal effects will be the wallet which was in his possession at the time he was wounded and shows clear bullet damage. Although the bullet passed through the wallet, it provided enough protection to save Alexander Malcolm’s life.

The Black Watch Museum shares the legacy of Perth brothers David and William Reid who served with the 6th (Perthshire) Battalion Black Watch. The pair enlisted to fight together and their army numbers were only one digit apart. The brothers never returned from the war. The Next of Kin exhibition shares the brothers’ remembrance cards and their service medals with visitors.

Richard Mackenzie, The Black Watch Castle and Museum archivist, explains:

“As we commemorate the men and women of the British Armed Forces who served in the First World War it is also important to remember the families that these people left behind. Families eagerly scoured newspapers desperate for any news of their loved ones, and awaited the next postcard, or letter, from them. For some though what they got was the dreaded telegram informing them of the death of their son or husband. This exhibition, of which the Black Watch Castle and Museum is a proud partner, focuses on the mementos such families created and the official documents and objects given to them by a grateful nation who mourned with them in their loss.”

Helen Smout, Chief Executive of Culture Perth & Kinross said:

“Hosting Next of Kin at Perth Museum and Art Gallery adds a new and poignant dimension to the memorialisation projects being carried out locally and is a key part of our season entitled Perth & Kinross Remembers. The exhibition highlights the personal, local and sometimes hidden stories around those who participated in the war both at home and abroad. Next of Kin provides an ideal platform to inspire more local research through sharing individual stories and experiences which have the greatest relevance to Perth.”

Dr Stuart Allan, Principal Curator at National Museums Scotland said:

“The First World War separated millions of people worldwide from their families and homes. The impact of the conflict was felt by families and communities in every part of Scotland as individuals served in the war in different ways.

“For those who experienced the conflict, keeping objects was a way of remembering this extraordinary period in their lives, or coping with the absence and loss of their loved ones. The Next of Kin touring exhibition brings these stories from the National collection to people across the country and through partner museum stories provides an insight into the local impact of the war.”

The material on loan from National Museums Scotland looks in detail at eight individual stories which both typify and illustrate the wider themes and impact of the War on servicemen and women and their families back home in Scotland. Objects include postcards and letters, photographs, medals and memorial plaques.

Examples include:

  • Two autograph books in which Nurse Florence Mellor collected drawings, watercolours, verses, jokes and messages from the wounded soldiers in her care at Craiglockhart War Hospital.
  • The pocket New Testament that Private James Scouller was carrying the day he died at Cambrai in 1917, returned to his family by a German soldier on the eve of the Second World War.
  • Drawings and postcards by Henry (Harry) Hubbard, an architectural draughtsman in Glasgow who contracted illnesses so severe that he ended up spending 16 months in hospital.
  • The last letter home from George Buchanan, Seaforth Highlanders, a railway plate-layer from Bathgate who was killed in action on the first day of the Battle of Loos, along with his memorial plaque and service medals.
  • The shell fragment which wounded Private William Dick. He kept the fragment after it was removed from his leg, but later died from the wound.

Explaining the importance of the Heritage Lottery Fund support, the Head of Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, Lucy Casot said:

“The impact of the First World War was far reaching, touching and shaping every corner of the UK and beyond. The Heritage Lottery Fund has invested more than £60million in projects – large and small – that are marking this global Centenary.

“With our grants, we are enabling communities like those involved in the Next of Kin exhibition to explore the continuing legacy of this conflict and help local young people in particular to broaden their understanding of how it has shaped our modern world.”

Next of Kin forms part of a season of commemorative exhibitions and events entitled Perth & Kinross Remembers including:

Art of War (1 October 2016 – 25 February 2017) Perth Museum & Art Gallery: An exhibition examining the way in which modern conflict has been documented by artists from the Victorian period to the present day. Guided tour: 30 November 2016. 1-1.30pm.

Flowers of the Forest (8-16 November) A.K. Bell: This exhibition draws on research and memorialisation projects undertaken by local community groups.

Battle of the Somme (11 November 7.30pm) Film screening with Andy Robertshaw.

The Making of War Horse (12 November 2-3pm) Perth Museum & Art Gallery: Find out the secrets behind Steven Spielberg’s film adaptation of War Horse at this talk by the film’s lead historical advisor, Andy Robertshaw.

A Bloody Business (24 November 6.30-7.45pm) Perth Museum & Art Gallery: Join historian Mike Taylor to

discover about the modern and not-so-modern weapons carried by both sides during the Great War.

 

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