Love Letters vs. Letters Carved in Stone: Gender, Memory and the Forces Sweethearts Exhibition

Jolly, Margaretta (1997) Love Letters vs. Letters Carved in Stone: Gender, Memory and the Forces Sweethearts Exhibition. In: Evans, Martin and Lunn, Kenneth (eds.) War and Memory in the Twentieth Century. Berg. ISBN 9781859731994

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The 'Forces Sweethearts' exhibition put on by the Imperial War Museum in 1993 commemorated a very different war experience from that of the outsize guns and mottled tanks that loom in the museum's central gallery. It invited us to peep into heart-shaped cases at mannequins in Great War wedding dresses; the scarlet sequinned strapless of a Marilyn Monroe pinup; a tumble of trinkets and bouquet upon bouquet of faded letters. Charting wartime romance from the First World War to the Gulf, the exhibition was about the flip side of battle, the home life, dreams and fantasies of those in the services. It was a recognition of 'private' life, which to a large extent is also where those in the services 'escaped' from war. It also put women in the forefront. The exhibition thus potentially waded into interesting and radical waters. Yet, as I show through a close reading of the exhibition's design and imagery, the museum's attempt to hold together pinup and reality in one narrative, that of the 'forces sweetheart', is part of a wider confusion between a celebration of romance and a representation of women's war histories.

Item Type: Book Section
Schools and Departments: School of Business, Management and Economics > Centre for Community Engagement
Research Centres and Groups: Centre for Life History and Life Writing Research
Depositing User: Margaretta Jolly
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 21:04
Last Modified: 30 Jul 2018 16:01
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