Verdun World War I Memorial Museum Reopens
Verdun Memorial: An interpretive center for the battleThe visit has been given a whole new look in the extended, redesigned building standing on the site of the actual battle. It explains and describes the history of the conflict by immersing visitors in the battle that began with a German attack on 21 February 1916. And it is the soldiers, both French and German, who are the focal point of the visit. More than 2,000 items, a multitude of photos never before displayed, French and German eyewitness accounts, and outstanding audiovisual exhibits combine to give insight into the experience of the men who came from so many different walks of life to fight here. The tour, over three floors, takes visitors on a journey of discovery that is as educational as it is emotional.
A Soldier's Life
Set within a glass cage is a 100 sq. metre video wall. A unique audiovisual presentation then describes the violence of the conflict, with the earth pulverised and scattered by the pounding of artillery fire. The display combines archival images and artwork produced by the soldiers themselves. Everyday objects used by the combatants are displayed round about in rough wooden display cases, humble and fragile reminders of the soldiers' lives. They give a different view of the battle, the view seen by those who were there.
Behind and around the battlefield is a curved wooden wall containing display cases that show the various stages in a soldier's life at the Battle of Verdun.
The fighting experienced by men here and the violence of the battle are told through archive photographs and artwork by the soldiers. To each side are the everyday objects used by the men, set out in bare wooden display cases, giving visitors a different view of the battle. The logistics of the gigantic combat are illustrated with a mock-up of the road known as the "Sacred Way".
A succession of different areas focuses on management of the battle (command posts close to the battle, HQs, military courts and decorations, then the heavy artillery). Next comes life in the rear echelon illustrated by a group of men chatting at a camp kitchen, and, further on, aviation as visitors come face to face with the battlefield. The two planes, one French, one German, hang above the battlefield, facing each other. Beyond them, life back at home is shown as it was seen by soldiers on leave. This is followed by the medical corps with a display of a casualty clearing station close to the lightwell and military hospitals against the walls.
The trail continues with a reminder that fighting continued here until the American offensive in September 1918. This is followed by a description of the way in which remembrance was created and a look at the symbolic impact of the Battle of Verdun in History
On the Battlefield and Beyind the ScenesOn the next floor, visitors are shown the environment of the battle and background details on the countries at war. The work that went on behind the French and German lines is shown here, including the role of aviation in history's first battle of the skies, the role of the high commands and the heroic part played by the medical teams. Through the thoughts and impressions of soldiers on leave, visitors are also given a glimpse of everyday life in France and Germany. The permanent exhibition ends back in the foyer, with information on the history of the Memorial Museum itself. The top floor is flooded with light and its windows look out onto the surrounding countryside.Visitors are free to access the terraces and enjoy the panoramic view. Multimedia terminals tell the history of the battlefield, with contemporary aerial photographs showing the traces left by the war and now hidden in the forest.
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February 4th, 2016