Museum of the Great War, Péronne, Picardy, France

The Historial, Museum of the Great War, built within the old mediaeval castle, first opened in 1992. It provides visitors with not only a vision of what life was like for the soldiers at the front but also that of the civilians. This absorbing museum follows the chronology of the war, giving a comparative and objective view of the three main belligerant nations’ experiences of war. The carefully selected artefacts included in the Historial’s vast collection illustrate the military, cultural and social life of the twentieth century.

Uniquely, the military artefacts are displayed in the centre of each gallery, in pits dug out of the marble floors, reminiscent of trenches in the chalky ground of the Somme. Artefacts evoking civilian and political life are displayed in glass cabinets set around the walls of each gallery. With German artefacts placed on the top shelf, French on the middle and British on the bottom, each First World War topic is treated in a comparative manner. The central gallery of the Historial is devoted to the artwork by Otto Dix, while new exhibition displays devoted to the role of the Australians in the liberation of the town were opened in the castle’s courtyard in 1915.

The Historial’s services also include a Documentation Centre, where hundreds of books and documents can be viewed upon appointment, and an Educational Department for school groups and teacher resources. The Historial’s International Research Centre unites historians from various different countries who organise talks and conferences and overview and add to the museum’s historical content.

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