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War Heritage Roadshow



War Heritage Roadshow
Melbourne Museum

This weekend, the public are invited to bring their keepsakes to the War Heritage Roadshow, at Melbourne Museum.

The roadshow sessions are free, but visitors are asked to book a time.

The museum's Love & Sorrow exhibition, about the personal impacts of war, is on until November.

Unlocking the stories of their private war

If you look closely at the diary of World War I soldier Michael Ward you see what looks like a bloody fingerprint .

Ward, known as Mick, served for 18 months in the bloodbath that was the Western Front in France. He was wounded in the leg and hand.

Yet the tone of the writing seems, to 2018 eyes, restrained. It refers to ‘‘ action' ' from ‘‘ Fritz' ' - the Germans - and to spending eight days in a trench without a change of clothes.

It's as though Ward wanted to spare us distress.

The hand-sized diary is among more than 100 objects Ward kept in a little suitcase. It was bought by Melbourne Museum at auction two years ago and is still being catalogued.

Melbourne Museum senior curator Deb Tout-Smith says it's a rare ‘‘ time capsule' ' of one Australian's experience of war.

There's a tin torch disguised as a hip flask . Dried violets. A wallet belonging to a fellow soldier who died. And an epaulette ripped from a German uniform.

Documents identified the suitcase owner as Ward. In photos, a handsome young man poses with family - but is that Mick?

Ms Tout-Smith called on any relatives to come forward. No children have been traced to Mr Ward, who was sent home after being wounded in April 1918, and died in 1962.

Ms Tout-Smith's favourite item is a small glass aspirin bottle filled with dirt. The sticker gives the name of a a pharmacy in Bentleigh, where Mr Ward lived after the war with his wife, Ellen Ward, nee Malane.

Is this soil from the battlefields ? Or a keepsake from his hometown of Lakes Entrance?

Many families have war relics such as those in the Ward suitcase.

Tomorrow and Sunday, the public are invited to bring theirs to the War Heritage Roadshow, at Melbourne Museum.

Since March 2017, Melbourne University experts have visited 16 Victorian towns, from Wycheproof to Warrnambool, to advise on how to identify and preserve these treasures. Jude Fraser, from Melbourne University's Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation, said about 1500 people had presented 6000 objects. Items included a Boer War biscuit with a soldier's photo glued to it, and vases made from shell cases.

A Geelong woman became emotional after submitting the WWI discharge certificate of her late father-in-law , whom she had disliked. Roadshow staff found in online war records that he had won a Distinguished Conduct Medal for saving a life under fire . ‘‘ It made her think of him as a different type of person,'' Ms Fraser said.

Unlocking the stories of their private war
This article is from the April 20 issue of The Age Digital Edition.
To subscribe, visit https://theage.digitaleditions.com.au/.
Carolyn Webb

This weekend's Roadshow sessions are free, but visitors are asked to book a time.

The museum's Love & Sorrow exhibition, about the personal impacts of war, is on until November.

Web Link: War Heritage Roadshow Link opens in new browser window





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