Mr Monkey sees Once Upon A Wartime at Imperial War Museum North, 2nd May
Mr Monkey knew that a new exhibition called Once Upon A Wartime had opened at Imperial Museum North, so he took a train and a tram to Salford Quays. He'd intended to get off at the newish MediaCityUK stop, but his humans accidentally caught a tram that didn't go there so he had to get off at Harbour City.
Mr Monkey scampered into the museum, and went upstairs to the temporary exhibition area. Photography isn't allowed inside temporary exhibitions for copyright reasons, so Mr Monkey posed next to the poster beside the doorway then made Mr Rik put the camera away.
Once Upon A Wartime is an exhibition about war stories written for and about children. The exhibition concentrates on five books - Michael Morpurgo's Warhorse (2007), Nina Bawden's Carrie's War (1973), Robert Westall's The Machine Gunners (1975), Ian Serriallier's The Silver Sword (1956) and Bernard Ashley's Little Soldier (1999) - each book having a section to itself.
All the sections include items connected to the writer of the book - Nina Bawden's teddy bear, for instance, or the paper knife that was given to Ian Serriallier while he was writing The Silver Sword - and sections of the writer's orignal manuscripts or typescripts, as well as recordings of the authors talking about their books. Mr Monkey was particularly interested to find out what inspired authors, and to see differences between the published works and the author's first attempt.
A series of panels retell the story of each book with pictures, which is quite useful as a reminder if you read the book a while back. Mr Monkey thought that these panels might be annoying if you hadn't already read the book and wanted the ending to come as a surprise when you did.
Each display includes related items from the IWM collection. The two largest items are a machine gun taken from a crashed Luftwaffe bomber and a life-sized wooden horse used for training cavalrymen in 1914, but most of the items are quite small. Mr Monkey was a little concerned that the training horse had no legs, but supposed that the Army knew what it was doing.
There is a partial recreation of the kitchen from Carrie's War, and a large section of the abandoned Anderson shelter converted into a fortress in The Machine Gunners. This can be entered by walking through a sensible, grown-up doorway, or by the more entertaining (and true to the book) method of crawling through a low tunnel. Some of the sections include models of the setting of the book. Mr Monkey's favourite was an elaborate reconstruction of The Machine Gunners fortress.
Some of the books have associated activities, such as identifying aircraft flying over Tyneside (Mr Monkey simply couldn't focus the binoculars on the model aircraft, and suggests you take a small torch to simulate a searchlight) or opening cupboards to find out about food in Wales in WW2.
An additional section at the end of the exhibition has a series of smaller displays, often with wonderful artwork, of other books on similar subjects. This section appeared to include a lot of well-stocked library shelves, though Mr Monkey was a little disappointed to find out that a lot weren't actually real books.
Mr Monkey thinks that Once Upon A Wartime is a very enjoyable exhibition.
Once Upon A Wartime runs until 2 September 2012.
Useful links :