There hasn’t been much time for sniping lately, and with so little popular coverage of the War’s centenary there hasn’t been much excuse, but it’s good to keep my eye in so I’ve been scanning for targets. Most of my previous potshots seem to have been aimed at the BBC, possibly because it’s a sniper’s job to pick out the officers, but lately another bigwig who should know better has been wandering about in my crosshairs, and it’s time I responded with a bullet.
I refer to that august institution, the Imperial War Museum. Now I know its name is a mandate to commemorate the British Empire, and I know its brief covers British wars in general (whether or not they fall into the imperial phase of the nation’s history), but I still think its popular coverage of the First World War is shockingly narrow.
That’s not quite fair. I’ve been following the IWM’s Facebook feed for a few weeks, so I’m hardly seeing the Museum’s full show. On the other hand we are talking popular coverage here, and if Facebook doesn’t reflect an institution’s popular face, what does? Anyhow, here’s the problem.
Life in the trenches, British home front, Western Front action and Gallipoli (for the moment), along with an occasional nod to British colonial campaigns and forces elsewhere – that’s your lot, scattered fairly sparsely among a selection of feeds dominated, inevitably, by the Second World War. All very well, and as I never tire of repeating, the horrors suffered by Tommies the trenches are well worth examining for lots of reasons, but I’m prepared to bet the IWM includes education in its CV for funding purposes, so where’s the big picture?
If you’re going to educate people about the First World War, they need to understand its global impact. The easiest, most accessible way to do that is to make connections between the upheavals a century ago and the world we see now. The upheavals in question were enormous, took place all over the world and had world-shaping consequences. They didn’t all directly involve British or British imperial armed forces (and very few of them happened on the Western Front), but they did all make a big difference to our lives today. They are important, relevant stories, but you won’t learn much about them from the IWM’s Facebook page.
Just a quick shot – no good sniper ever wasted more than one bullet on a Facebook page.