1 Year of our Digital Collections: Staff picks
In December 2021, we launched our collections website, and made the first 100 objects from our collection available to view online for the first time in the museum’s history. To celebrate, our staff have chosen objects you might not have seen yet from our digital collection and written a short explanation of why they picked them.
Charlotte Houlahan, Curator – ‘Take a Risk for Peace Now’ banner
“The Peace Museum holds a varied and remarkable collection that tell the stories of local, national, and international peacemakers. My favourite part of our collection is our textiles. We hold around 300 banners, quilts, and textiles. These come in all shapes, sizes, and fabrics, with our biggest measuring over 10 meters long.
A banner that I think really stands out, and not just because of its bright yellow background, is the ‘Take a Risk for Peace Now’ banner. Two versions of this banner were made – the museum holds the second version. The first was designed by Andrea Kelland at Totnes Women’s Centre in October 1981 for a London CND Rally. It was also photographed for postcards which were used to send to women who were jailed for protesting. The second version was recreated by Thalia Campbell for her ‘100 Years of Women’s Banners’ touring exhibition, as the original could not be borrowed for the whole period of the exhibition. Campbell is an artist, banner maker and activist who spent many days at Greenham Common Peace Camp and made banners professionally for others.
On the banner itself is an orange image of a sun with a face inside a circle. Around the image of the sun the words ‘Nuclear power? No thanks’ are written in black. This symbol is known as the ‘Smiling Sun’ and was created in Denmark in 1975 by activist Anne Lund with the Organisationen til Oplysning om Atomkraft (Organization for Information on Nuclear Power). It was adopted by anti-nuclear movements worldwide and is still used by many today. In 1977 the ‘smiling sun’ was trademarked to protect the use of it. After the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, a new version was created for renewable energy.
You can find out more information on the smiling sun here“
Ezra Kingston, Digital Marketing and Communications Coordinator – Fragment of a Soviet Missile
“I think that one of the most interesting objects on our collections site at the moment is this fragment of a Soviet-made SS-23 missile, which has been mounted on a wooden display. It’s such a small object, but, like many of our artefacts, it represents a much bigger story.
In 1987, The Soviet Union and the USA signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which banned both countries from having these weapons or any of the equipment needed to launch them. As a result, the Soviet Union declared that it had 239 SS-23 missiles, and agreed that they would all be destroyed by the 1st of November 1989. This fragment is from one of those missiles.
This story demonstrates some of the complexities of peace processes. In 1990, the USA discovered that there were a number of SS-23 missiles in Eastern Europe and questions arose around whether the Soviet Union had breached the INF Treaty. Ultimately, it was decided that the transfer of the missiles had not breached the treaty, but that The Soviet Union had acted in bad faith by concealing this information. It has since been taken as evidence of the importance of clarifying key terms during peace negotiations, in order to make them effective on the ground.
This is also an object which shows how some of the central issues peacemakers are tackling haven’t changed all that much over the past 30 odd years. The destruction of these missiles and the INF agreement did not lead to a lasting peace, and today 31 countries around the world are in possession of ballistic missiles, and 9 of them are known or suspected to have nuclear weapons. Peace groups everywhere continue to campaign for agreements that would ban these weapons altogether.
You can read more about the INF agreement at Case Study: SS-23 Missiles in Eastern Europe (state.gov)”
Irene Legg, Project Administrator – ‘Matters arising from the Gulf War’ drawing by Margaret Glover
“I love “slice of life” drawings and like thinking about the people in them and what they were thinking and feeling. I wonder what these folks thought about the war and what Matters they thought would arise.
I’m an American born in 1985, so one of the earliest international news events I remember was the Gulf War. I didn’t understand it at all at the time, but remember hearing a lot about Kuwait and oil and some guy named Saddam. Later, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars dominated my early adulthood and college years and very much shaped my worldview as I started thinking critically about the forces that shape America’s international policy and our place in the world… I wonder if the people in the panel thought there would be more conflict in the region a decade later.
Also, I bet that blue jacket looked GREAT in person.”
Shannen Johnson, Learning and Engagement Officer – Pat Arrowsmith Portrait by Margaret Glover
“I’ve chosen this incredible portrait of Pat Arrowsmith by Maggie Glover. I think this image captures Pat so well. I love sharing Pat’s story in our education programmes. She is a well-known CND/anti-nuclear campaigner but she has also been a supporter of LGBTQ+ rights. We talk about her activism in our Peace OUT school session for KS3 pupils – she’s an inspiration!”
All of these objects, and many more, are available to view at https://www.peacemuseum.org.uk/. We’re also happy to announce that we’re currently working on bringing you a whole new set of objects in the new year, and after asking our twitter followers what they’d like to see, we’re excited to reveal that we’ll be adding more of our beautiful banners! Here’s a sneak peak at what’s to come next year:
Maker unknown, donated by Thalia Campbell
A huge thank you to everyone who’s visited our collections site over the past year, and particularly to those who have taken the time to give us feedback. It’s been so important to us to hear that people from all over the world have still been able to enjoy our collection while the museum remains closed. Thank you, and we look forward to sharing more with you in 2023.