Renewal: Life after the First World War in Photographs

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IWM London
21 September 2018 – 31 March 2019

Free exhibition
#MakingANewWorld

New exhibition of black and white photography reveals the optimism and ingenuity of a post-war world

In the years following the First World War, countries, cities, societies and individuals had to regenerate and rebuild themselves on an unprecedented scale – but from devastation and loss, a new world emerged.

Exploring the theme of renewal in relation to individual, societal and global recovery, Renewal: Life after the First World War in Photographs (21 September 2018 – 31 March 2019) highlights the ways in which lives, landscapes and national identities recovered, evolved and even flourished in the aftermath of war. Examining the complex processes of reconstruction, this major exhibition at IWM London includes over 130 black and white photographs, documents and objects from the museum’s extensive collection.

The exhibition charts the initial optimism that followed the end of the First World War, as well as the realities of displacement, demobilisation, social change and the fall of empires. Many individuals found themselves in new nations as borders were re-drawn and empires disbanded, but while the devastating effects of war were felt on both sides, developments in materials and new technologies also led to innovations. Military equipment was repurposed for civilian use and advances in medicine and plastic surgery enabled the reconstruction of the human body.

From images of refugees returning to ruined homes, through the reconstruction of Ypres, to battlefields depicting the villages that ‘died for France’ and were never rebuilt, these rarely seen photographs from this little-explored time period reveal the extent of destruction and change in war-torn Europe and beyond.

Alan Wakefield, Head of First World War and Early 20th Century Conflict at IWM, said: “Drawing primarily on IWM’s rich and varied photography archive, this new exhibition presents images from both official and personal collections, giving insight into the innovation, opportunism and resourcefulness that shaped the rebuilding and regeneration of the post-war world. Both surprising and inspiring, the exhibition highlights the resilience and ingenuity of the human spirit in a time of unprecedented social and political change.”

Renewal: Life after the First World War in Photographs is part of Making a New World, a season of innovative exhibitions, installations and immersive experiences taking place across IWM London and IWM North between 27 July 2018 and 31 March 2019. The free season will explore themes of remembrance and how the First World War has shaped the society we live in today.


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