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Te Papa’s ‘Disabled Soldiers of World War I’ worth a visit

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By Kezia Bennett

‘Road to Recovery: Disabled soldiers of World War I’ is an exhibition at Te Papa in Wellington. It is about how New Zealand soldiers who became disabled during the war were supported to recover their independence.

It has been at Te Papa since August 2014, finishes at the end of April 2015, and admission is free. More information about the exhibition can be found here.

I have visited the exhibition quite a few times, and still enjoy it. I have found it very informative, and enjoy looking at the displays. These consist of eight photos of soldiers, mainly amputees, participating in rehabilitation activities with various assistive devices, posters from the time advertising assistance available to soldiers returning home disabled, and handcrafts made by soldiers when they were rehabilitating.

Another thing I like about the exhibition is how it portrays what it was like for men who were disabled as a result of the war, an aspect of the war that I don’t think gets very much attention. As someone who has always been disabled, I can’t even begin to imagine what it was like for these men and boys to go off to war, and then come back disabled, but seeing the photos in the exhibition gives me some idea of the difficult adjustments they would have had to make.

However, I don’t think the exhibition’s placement and size allow for much material to be displayed – you can see everything in ten minutes tops - or for many people to know it’s even there (the Ilott Room is a tiny back room). Having said that, I don’t know how much material there was available to display - there may not have been much, making a small room more suitable.

I also think the exhibition could have been better publicised - I only discovered very late last year, by pure chance, that the exhibition was even on. I have been the only person going through most of the times I have visited it.

However, in spite of its flaws, overall I think it’s a great exhibition. If you live in Wellington or are visiting, I highly recommend making the time to come and see this exhibition if you are able to do so.