For many people the famous First World War dioramas remain the most precious memory from their first visit to the Australian War Memorial. But how did they come to be, what was their purpose, and how were they made?
Dioramas, or sculpted models with painted backgrounds, represent a conscious attempt to achieve a powerful art form within a museum context. In them, history and art have merged to create accurate and moving visual records of the events of war. Central to the vision of the Australian War Memorial galleries, which first opened in 1941, dioramas would attempt to convey the fullest possible account of the experiences of Australians who fought in Europe and the Middle East, and on Gallipoli, during the First World War. By establishing this historical perspective, the dioramas were intended to complement, in an engaging way, the more detailed displays in the galleries, which included plan models, uniforms, and artefacts.