Mnemonics for War: Trench Art and the Reconciliation of Public and Private Memory

Clare Whittingham


The study of British First World War memorials has generated a considerable body of literature since its emergence as a scholarly field in the 1990s. Less attention has been devoted, however, to commemorative objects of a smaller and more personal character that were collected during and after 1914-1918 for display in homes and museums. This paper finds ‘trench art’, battlefield souvenirs and commercially produced war kitsch negotiating the gap between civilian and military experiences of war and its translation into memory. Particular consideration is given to the Imperial War Museum as representative of institutional attitudes towards this unique and still-contested category of unconventionally commemorative material.

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