Londonist Rating: ★★★☆☆
As 2014 marks the centenary of the beginning of the First World War, there have been several exhibitions examining the legacy of the war including the re-opening of the Imperial War Museum and its First World War galleries, and the massively popular and moving poppies at the Tower of London.
One location where war is an ever-present feature is the Florence Nightingale museum within the St. Thomas’ hospital complex. Most people won’t know about the existence of this small museum but it does a terrific job of setting out Nightingale’s upbringing, her time healing soldiers during the Crimean war, how she brought about greater professionalism and standards to nursing, and her legacy.
The museum’s newest installation is by sculptor Eleanor Crook, who has recreated a literal band of brothers, complete with instruments, showcasing the injuries that have been sustained in warfare. The five individual models cover conflicts from the Crimea right through to modern day Iraq and Afghanistan.
A Crimean era hussar has had a musketball injury sewn up but it’s only with the mechanised warfare of the First World War where some truly horrific injuries appear. These include a nose completely destroyed by shrapnel where folds of skin from the forehead or neck would have been used to reconstruct the damaged nose.
In later wars, the psychological advancement of medicine is evident as soldiers were kept active and allowed to wear their uniforms as this helped in speeding up their recovery and keeping patients active gave them a sense of continuing to contribute to the war effort.
There is a lot of detail and subtlety to this installation and it’s great that the museum has decided to keep a curator on hand to talk visitors through it all. It’s a powerful visualisation of how horrific war injuries can be and how medicine and surgery have advanced in their treatment of soldiers.
And the band played on … is on display at Florence Nightingale Museum, 2 Lambeth Palace Road, SE1 7EW until 22 December. Tickets for museum entry are £7.80 for adults, concessions available. There is also an accompanying blog charting visitor interactions with the exhibit.