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“How Much Of An ‘Experience’ Do We Want The Public To Receive?”: Trench Reconstructions And Popular Images Of The Great War

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Chapter Summary

Perhaps the most ubiquitous and evocative image of the Great War in popular culture is the trench on the Western Front. In novels and film, and in both the classroom and the museum, the trench is called upon to encapsulate the conflict. This chapter examines the first British example, opened to the public in Blackpool in 1916, alongside one of the most high profile, the ?Trench Experience,? created in 1990 in London?s Imperial War Museum. The ?Trench Experience? echoes its forebear in loudly declaring its total verisimilitude, but they are both vulnerable to accusations of providing an incomplete and sanitised vision of the battlefield. The curator of the ?Trench Experience? expects it not to be perceived as a portal to an absolute truth, but rather a contribution to one infinite and endlessly reworked popular understanding of the Great War as a whole.

Keywords: battlefield; Great War; London?s Imperial War Museum; Trench Experience; Western Front



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