Emma Purce, University of Kent
This year, in conjunction with the Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art Gallery, a number of postgraduate students from the School of History have been co-curating an exhibition to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. ‘Back to Blighty: The Medical Front in Tunbridge Wells’ focuses on the healing of wounded soldiers in Tunbridge Wells, with particular reference to the use of various local stately homes as auxiliary hospitals and places of convalescence for wounded servicemen. The project has involved archival research to find personal testimonies from the soldiers and nurses who were recovering and working in Kent throughout the First World War, in the hope of linking these individual stories to the stately homes local to Tunbridge Wells.
Following the completion of the archival research, there was an opportunity to think creatively about the way the exhibition should look. This included discussions about the housing of a number of interesting artefacts, which depict some of the ways that the successful healing of wounded soldiers was accomplished at Tunbridge Wells. Examples of the potential exhibits considered, included: the X-Ray of an arm shattered by a bullet wound, a soldiers medical kit, and a V.A.D nurses uniform, as well as a wide variety of photographs of men who were recovering from the injuries sustained at war. The exhibition, therefore, tracks the journey of the wounded soldier from injury on the battlefield and the immediate medical attention they received, to their return to England and the beginning of their journey to recovery. The exhibition will open on Friday 25th July 2014 and runs until January 2015.