A ‘guest post’ by Hannah Haines of the Library’s Entrance Hall staff.
The history and literature of the Great War has been a topic on the GCSE syllabus for many years, and from the outset of planning the ‘Dream Voices’ exhibition, we were aware of the potential for involving local schools in the Sassoon project. Making the subject of conflict accessible to the 13–16 age group presents challenges, but by inviting pupils to engage with original historical sources, we hope to show how archival research can inspire lively insights into material they may have only seen printed in textbooks.
In order to maximise the appeal of an exhibition visit to teachers, we have put together a resource pack that highlights particular items from the collection and suggests discussion points to tie the visit to the curriculum requirements. We identified key themes that would be relevant to studies in English Literature, History and Citizenship, such as depictions of trench warfare, Sassoon’s anti-War protest of 1917, and the concepts of patriotism and remembrance. Although the process of writing the pack began before the exhibition was assembled, some of Sassoon’s best-known works presented themselves as suitable source material. There was an amount of adjustment to be done once the CD of exhibition images arrived (my first, excited, viewing of the archive!) – for instance, Sassoon’s sketch of a memorial statue to be erected in Cambridge adds a great visual element to discussions of how people can be encouraged to remember and commemorate war.
These packs have been dispatched to a number of teachers, and we hope that the result will be a number of small group visits in the Michaelmas Term that will take in the exhibition and suggested follow-up activities.