The wars of twentieth century alone account for leaving at least 108 million people dead making war museums an utmost necessity to not only document the loss of lives but also to prevent the repetition of same.
Time and again, wars have scarred the human history taking away millions of lives of soldiers and civilians alike. Highlighting the severe and long-term consequences of wars as well as their futility, war museums play a substantial role in commemorating the lives lost in wartime alongside building and interpreting narratives concerning the reality of sufferings caused by warfare.
While addressing the trauma of war is evident in the weaponry, photographs, documentaries among other entities, the joie de vivre that inspires the sentiments of the representation of war at a war museum should ideally aim at attributing significance to the idea of peace-keeping and reflecting upon the past glory. However, war museums have often been accused of sanitising or glamorising war. Martin J. Goodman, an author whose major theme of work includes the generational inheritance of effects of war tells India Outbound.
Indisputably, wars have shaped much of the contemporary world and a visit to the remnants of the same have striked a chord with the tourists who see the light in the aftermath of wars and the enthusiasts of historically significant weaponry. Here are some of the important military and war museums of the world.
War Remnants Museum, Vietnam
Amidst the busy urban neighbourhood of Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon, the capital of the erstwhile South Vietnam, stands an American Huey helicopter parked next to an M48 Patton tank, the building beside it reads Bảo tàng chứng tích chiến tranh, War Remnants Museum.
Located in the former United States Information Agency building, the War Remnants Museum opened in 1975, showcases exhibits relating to the first and second Indochina Wars. Earlier known as the Exhibition House for US and Puppet Crimes, the museum not only displays multiple aircrafts and military artefacts but also an assortment of photos of bodies blown to pieces, corpses of little children, victims of multiple bombings and models of detention centres, a documentary on the after effects of Agent Orange among other exhibits that include the portrayal of protests and popular support for peace around the world. The war museum attracts a lot of tourists from all over the world, including India. “As a traveller, it was very necessary to go through and learn about such an act of terror in order to realise that what shapes the destiny of a nation and to spread the awareness about the need for peace and solidarity even more,” Debjani Lahiri, a solo travel blogger from Kolkata tells India Outbound.
Yad La-Shiryon, Israel
Established in 1982 and officially known as the Armoured Corps Memorial Site and Museum, it is located at Latrun, a strategic hilltop overlooking the road between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. It is interesting to note that Latrun was one of the principle sites for the Arab-Israeli War in 1948, that killed thousands of soldiers and civilians consequently, rendering it an eternal historical momentum.
Recognised worldwide as one of the largest and most diverse tank museums, Yad La-Shiryon’s logo also depicts a tank, an American M4 Sherman which was one of the first tanks that fought in the service of the Israel defence forces. The tank is architecturally placed on the top of a former British water tank. Besides the M4 and other American tanks on display for tourists, the museum also exhibits a huge collection of Israeli tanks notably Merkava marks I through IV, and hundreds of models from Germany, France, and the Soviet Union, among other countries, as well as some that Israel captured from enemy forces in wartime.
Tourists can also choose to amuse themselves by watching birds at the bird watching facility which is equipped with radar to track migratory birds amidst singing heroic sagas of the past.
In the forested south Austrian state of Styria, renowned for its rich wines and ancient castles lies the world’s largest historic armoury, the Styrian Armoury, called Landeszeughaus in German. Built from 1642-1645 for the sheer need to store and organise military items, Landeszeughaus today holds historical arms and military equipment dating from the late 15th to the early 19th centuries.
Located in the Styrian capital city of Graz, the narrow building of Landeszeughaus is five storeyed and about 50 m long and has around 32,000 military exhibits such as weaponry, tools, suits of armour, firearms and cannons are stored and carefully arranged on four floors.
Since no labels are attached to the objects exhibited, a guided tour available at about USD 2.75 allows the tourists to have an informative visit for a fair understanding of the history of the Landeszeughaus and its remarkable collection.
South African National War Museum, South Africa
Located in South Africa’s biggest city, Johannesburg, the South African national war museum was originally opened in 1947 to document the history of South Africa’s involvement in the World War-II, but later in 1975, it began inculcating all conflicts that South Africa has been involved in such as the Anglo-Boer wars, the Anglo-Zulu war, World Wars I and II, the conflict in South West Africa (present-day Namibia) as well as items relating to the armed struggle against apartheid. Displaying a collection of more than 44,000 items that are divided into 37 separate categories, the museum contains some of the rarest existent aircraft in the world. Besides housing the official South African war art and photograph collections, the museum is also packed with armoured fighting vehicles, medals, uniforms, small arms, edged weapons, barrack & camping equipment, graves & memorials and military music.