Ararat's John Hargreaves to feature in World War 1 exhibition

John Hargreaves and his uncles.

John Hargreaves and his uncles.

MELBOURNE Museum's new exhibition World War 1: Love and Sorrow, opening on August 30, showcases the war through the eyes of eight real-life individuals, including Ararat teenage telegrapher John Hargreaves.

The exhibition allows visitors to experience one of the world's most destructive conflicts and tells century-old personal stories of war with 21st century technology.

Enlisting at 18 years old, Hargreaves served as a 'runner' who delivered messages in the trenches on the Western Front.

He was recommended for a distinguished conduct medal for his actions between July 24-26 during the Battle of Pozieres, when he 'displayed great bravery continuously delivering messages to various parts of our front frequently passing through severe artillery barrages'.

On September 7, 1916, the 7th Battalion was 'in trenches' and Hargreaves was buried alive by a shell explosion and subsequently fell into a 'mental stupor'.

He returned to Australia where he was treated for shell shock for a number of years.

His daughter, Joan has helped develop his story with a number of objects from Hargreaves and letters from his family forming part of the exhibition.

At a time when Australia's population was less than five million, more than 450,000 Australians enlisted to fight in the war. More than 61,000 Australians died, while many more returned physically and mentally scarred.

"Every one of those statistics has its own story, with its own family and loved ones," said Deborah Tout-Smith, curator of World War 1: Love and Sorrow.

"When we talk about war we often talk about the battles and the dates. With this exhibition we wanted to bring the people back into the picture."

To tell the eight remarkable stories, which also include a Victorian mother awaiting the return of her son; Aboriginal brothers from Orbost fighting on the Western Front; and a Jewish German soldier on the other side of that same front, Museum Victoria has worked closely with award-winning multimedia companies to create a fully integrated augmented exhibition experience.

Together with the company behind MONA's O, Art Processors, the exhibition has developed a smart phone app using beacon interactive technology that allows visitors to follow the stories in greater detail.

As visitors move through the space wearing headphones, audio and visual messages are received at trigger points throughout the exhibition.

"Each story is deeply personal and emotional, giving audiences a sometimes painful and heart-rending experience of the true destruction and desolation of World War I," Ms Tout-Smith said.

The exhibition will include a powerful interactive projection experience of Glencourse Wood, a battleground in Ypres, Belgium, where so many Australians lost their lives.

As the visitor walks through the projection, their body outline interacts with the installation, giving a dynamic view of the woodland before, during and after the battle.

Created by Museum Victoria, World War I: Love and Sorrow includes more than 300 objects, many of which will be on display for the first time in Victoria.

"Museum Victoria experts have developed this exhibition over some four years, collecting objects from across the world," said Dr Patrick Greene, Museum Victoria, CEO.

"Utilising this innovative technology this exhibition does what we do best - tell the stories of Victorians."

Entry to the exhibit is free with Museum admission which is $12 for adults. Children and concession enter for free.

World War I: Love and Sorrow will run from August 30, 2014 until 2018 at the Melbourne Museum. Tickets are on sale now via phone: 13 11 02 or visit www.museumvictoria.com.au/melbournemuseum.

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