In a new exhibition at the National Library of Australia in Canberra, Keepsakes: Australians and the Great War - to mark the 100th anniversary of World War I - an image just like this, a simple, sepia-coloured photograph of a newly married couple takes pride of place. It’s the 1915 photograph of newly married couple Kate McLeod and George Searle. George is wearing the uniform of the First Australian Imperial Force, Kate, a long lace wedding gown.
The photograph was uncovered in the 600,000-strong collection of images in the National Library whilst curators were researching the Keepsakes exhibition.
‘This photograph of a patriotic young man who married his love before he goes off to war is what our new exhibition is all about,’ Director-General of the National Library of Australia, Ms Anne-Marie Schwirtlich said.
‘When you look at the photo you can’t but help think what happened to this man. Did he survive the war? Did he come back a changed man? How did his new wife cope during his absence? she said.
Photos like this one were meant as keepsakes. Solid memories designed to help families and friends cope while their loved ones were away at war, often for years at a time.
Keepsakes can also mean letters, diaries, manuscripts and ephemera, exhibition curator Dr Guy Hansen said.
‘Today, there is no-one left who was there. No-one who can tell us what happened, what they saw or how they felt,’ Dr Hansen said.
‘So to understand as best we can, we must turn to their archives – which is exactly what we have done in this exhibition.’
Keepsakes: Australians and the Great War opens on 26 November 2014 and runs until 19 July 2015. Admission is free.
Dr Hansen is available for interview.
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