WWI case studies of courage and despair

In May this year, Road to Recovery: Disabled Soldiers of World War I closed, after its ten-month-long display at Te Papa. This exhibition, which explored how New Zealand soldiers disabled by World War I were supported to regain their economic independence, included 8 sepia photographs of limbless soldiers demonstrating new work skills they were taught while recovering in hospital. Here’s one of the images that was in the exhibition:

Unidentified WWI soldier with an amputated foot mending a car tyre, England, 1918, maker unknown. Acquisition history unknown. Te Papa (O.031466)

Unidentified WWI soldier with an amputated foot mending a car tyre, England, 1918, maker unknown. Acquisition history unknown. Te Papa (O.031466)

While the exhibition is now closed, these 8 images, and 20 others like them held by Te Papa, are accessible digitally on Te Papa’s Collections Online. Plus, a specially curated slide show of 10 has just been added to the Te Papa Channel. The slide show concentrates on three men whose photos were probably taken as case studies of ‘successful’ job retraining.

Front page of the conference report. Inter-allied conference on the after-care of disabled soldiers

Front page of the Conference report. Courtesy of the US National Library of Medicine

The history of the prints is still a mystery, even though I have been researching them, on-and-off, for the last seven years. I am certain that eventually I will verify an archival lead I have – that the photographs were exhibited in London in May 1918 at the ‘Inter-Allied Conference on the After-care of Disabled Soldiers’ (see above). In the mean time, any information to help me with my detective work would be gratefully received.

Read other blogs I have posted on Te Papa’s blog about these photographs:

 

 

 

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