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A look at our upcoming exhibition, Children and Military Lives

Children and Military Lives - Stories of Adventure, Family and Exile

Exhibition - 2 June to 24 November 2022

The new exhibition will tell the stories of today’s service children (children of serving British Armed Forces personnel) and their experiences of living life in the military community, as well as stories of children who become victims of war, experiencing the effects of military conflict - from Second World War evacuees to today’s refugees and asylum seekers.

With a focus on Oxfordshire people, our visitors can see and hear what living through conflict is like first hand, from recordings of evacuation memories to present day accounts from children who arrive in the county and experience a new culture here, processing their life experiences through art and personal stories.

To bring this exhibition to visitors, we've partnered with two charities, Little Troopers and Brian McCarty’s War Toys.

If you're not familiar with them already, Little Troopers support all children who have parents serving in the British Armed Forces, and will give visitors the opportunity to discover the stories and experiences of military children who have grown-up in the Armed Forces community. Visit the exhibition and explore how they cope with having their parents deployed overseas to different parts of the world; how they move house and school regularly, building friendships for what can be short periods of time and read and listen to their own reflections on what it's like to have military parents as these young people start to consider their own adult lives.

Louise Fetigan, founder of Little Troopers, says:

"There are more than 100,000 children today who have parents serving in the British Armed Forces so it's really important that we represent these children and give them the opportunity to tell their story and to share their unique experiences. Military life is full of challenge, change and adventure and this exhibit offers visitors a special insight into our Armed Forces community as seen through the eyes of military children."

We've also been collecting accounts from children of the 1950s to 2000s, whose parents were part of the British forces. Frequently these children experienced traveling across the globe following in their fathers’ footsteps; often giving them unique life experiences they never forgot.

Germany, 1962

The third distinct segment of this exhibition will be provided by War Toys, a US nonprofit organization founded in 2019. We'll be exhibiting part of their photo series by Brian McCarty about children’s experiences of war, expressed through unique, art-therapy-based collaborations in the field.  The unique photo series War Toys vividly brings to life the effects of war on children living in conflict zones around the world. Acting as their own art directors, children often living in refugee camps are given the opportunity to depict real scenes from their experiences using toys and the local terrain. The resulting images are impactful and thought provoking; giving us an insight into a world which is far removed from our experiences of watching news programmes covering the camps in war zones.

Brian McCarty/War Toys - Homecoming Old City of Mosul, Iraq 2018

Finally, with the exhibition opening just in time for  Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, we'll have a special display to highlight the Queen’s own ‘military childhood’ and her Second World War service in the ATS, as well as a timeline of the nation’s toys and books. We have gathered toys from the 1940s to the present day as we take a look at our enduring relationship with toys that depict war, from tin soldiers of yesterday to remote control drones of today.

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