H2E, the leading design studio in Latvia, created a new permanent exhibition for the Latvian War Museum. The exhibition ‘Latvians in World War I’ is opened to public from the beginning of January 2017. The First World War marked a major turn in the history of the world. It deconstructed the lives of nations and individuals. Even more, nobody and nothing was left unaffected. Latvia lost 1/3 of its pre-war population. However, the war brought not only losses. The collapse of empires paved the way for the Latvian people to establish their own country. Helplessness, uncertainty, pain, insecurity. But also patriotism, hope and longing.
These emotions were always present in the WWI. We took the emotions, the stories of the historians, the real historical evidences of the war and interpreted them into a spatially emotional 5 dimensional experience. Exhibition design concept is deconstruction. Space disappears, emerge war edges. White sheets with soldiers’ letters engage the visitor, specially created short movies bring to life the stories of central exhibits. Piles of stylized ammunition boxes carry multi-level digital and manual narrative within the 380 m2 of exhibition space, while creating almost endless passages of frontline trenches. The trenches intuitively and emotionally lead visitors through the exploration of content.
The visitor never knows what will happen around the corner, as it was during the war. 1231 historical exhibits have silently kept the memories and stories within them. We exhibited them in differently sized showcases of stylized ammunition boxes creating no emotional boundary between the visitors and exhibits by using the invisible Groglass glass. Embedded touchscreen monitors give an in-depth information on specific themes, illustrated maps inform about the course of the war. Animated, large-scale audio- visual projections introduce and end the exhibition by giving a strong emotional and intellectual message.
While visitors explore the content, they inconspicuously hear sounds and songs audible closer and farther, for example, soldiers sing about their daily lives, and feel the scent of flaxseed oil that is applied on the ammunition boxes, adding the fifth dimension to the experience. The understanding of historical events is the basis of future decisions that will affect everyone tomorrow. Also, understanding the World War I. We invited people to participate intellectually and moreover emotionally. We invited to reflect silently. On history, national consciousness, on responsibility of oneself and society.