Imperial War Museum North uses Big Picture Show to tell personal story of Afghanistan

By Culture24 Reporter | 21 July 2011
a close up shot of two children
Chris, Nicole, Matthew, Claire Davies-Griffith in IWM's Big Picture Show.© Courtesy IWM
Big Picture Show - Service and Separation: A Volunteer Nurse in Afghanistan, at Imperial War Museum North from Saturday July 30 to Sunday September 4 shown daily at 1pm and 3.30pm

“I don’t want to talk about the downside of life here. I don’t want you to worry about me but it has really made me appreciate all I have at home.” These are the words of Reserve Army Medic Claire Davies-Griffith writing to her husband from Afghanistan in 2010.

Now, as the British Army reflects on a ten year ‘tour of duty’ in the troubled country this highly personal prose has become part of Imperial War Museum North’s brand new 360-degree film, the Big Picture Show. 

Played to visitors across the walls of its main exhibition space, the immersive sound and light experiences have become an integral part of the visitor experience at the museum - and a handy way of showcasing the sound and photography collections. But a new digitised system has recently allowed the museum to commission new content and explore some of the more personal and profound aspects of conflict.

a photo of a smiling woman in a nursing uniform
Claire Davies-Griffith in her nurse’s uniform.© Imperial War Museum
Focussing on the experiences of Davies-Griffith as she served with the 207 (Manchester) Field Hospital in Afghanistan during late 2010 the new show uses intimate footage - set to a PJ Harvey soundtrack - to explore the whole Davies-Griffith family’s experience of the war.

As the film flickers between the letters of Claire and her family, footage of life in camp Bastion and the experiences of the family back home, visitors see the juxtaposition of army and family life and get an insight into the feelings of separation and the stresses of life on the base.

The museum worked closely with the 207 (Manchester) Field Hospital to produce the film. “Before, during and after our recent deployment to Afghanistan the Museum supported the Unit’s Welfare Office and families with a number of events, for which we are very thankful,” explained Captain Kevin Thornley of the Field Hospital.

“We are also grateful to the Museum for increasing awareness and understanding of the work that we do, and look forward to working with them more in the future.”

A volunteer unit, the 207 Field Hospital is made up medical professionals and is one eleven Territorial Army field hospital units – two of which are based in the North West – offering medical support to UK forces on operations overseas.

More pictures of Camp Bastion:

a photo of a long dusty road flanked by wire
Camp Bastion, Afghanistan© Imperial War Museum
a photo of a sunset behind a barbed wire compound
Sunset over Camp Bastion, January 2011© Imperial War Museum
Big Picture Running Times July 30 – Sept 4 (inclusive)
11: Weapons of War
12: The War at Home
1: Service and Separation: A Volunteer Nurse in Afghanistan
2: Children and War
3: Al-Mutanabbi Street: A reaction
3.30: Service and Separation: A Volunteer Nurse in Afghanistan
4: The War at Home
4.30 – Al-Mutanabbi Street: A reaction
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