Stephens, David: And the children went: Hands on History at the War Memorial

Stephens, David

“And the children went”: Hands on History at the Australian War Memorial‘, Honest History, 4 August 2015

A description of a ‘Hands on History’ session for school children on holidays, leading in to an assessment of how the Memorial presents history to children. The article links to a separate document which contains (unedited) answers from the Memorial’s education team to questions put to it by Honest History.

[T]he blandness of the [“Hands on History”] presentation reflects the War Memorial’s riding rules for talking to children. The short version of this is “age-appropriateness” … “Age-appropriateness” should not be used as a fig leaf for misrepresentation and sanitisation nor for Australia-centric parochialism … “Hands on History” is but the tip of a large corporate iceberg of assumptions and preferences. Skewed presentations are not the fault of the “Hands on History” presenters. It is the way the War Memorial does things.

Of the ‘Hands on History’ session itself, the author concludes:

Similar parent-child-presenter interaction could be observed at Questacon or Sea World or at a birthday party featuring a magician. Hearing a fudged presentation about bombing the tripes out of wartime Germany becomes just another unthreatening, comfortable holiday experience.

Read more …

Honest History thanks the Communications and Marketing and Education and Visitor Services sections of the Australian War Memorial for their assistance in researching this article. It does not expect them to agree with its conclusions but it hopes for opportunities to discuss these issues further with people from the Memorial.

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