A hundred years have passed since one of the deadliest human conflicts in global history took place; World War One. This devastating event reshaped the world and consequently the way we live today; new countries were configured, political ideas advanced and social and cultural changes inevitably followed. To mark this important milestone, IWM, London part of the Imperial War Museums, unveiled a new permanent First World War gallery to the public on the 19th July 2014.

The museum, which was established while the First World War was being fought, has undergone a major refurbishment and houses the richest and most comprehensive collection from the Great War period. Visitors can learn about the conflict – how it started, why it continued and its impact, and gain a deeper appreciation of the enormous sacrifice given by those involved. Many previously unseen photographs, art and film are showcased, plus over 1,300 objects, including weapons, diaries, letters, uniforms and souvenirs.

Presenting these collections required enormous thought and skill. Remarkably, some of the soldiers’ uniforms and equipment from a variety of armies had survived, although unsurprisingly in a fragmented assortment of sizes and states of repair. Given the comprehensive level of expertise required in displaying these objects, mannequin manufacturers; proportion>london, and their conservation grade specialist team; Gems Studio, were appointed as manufacturer of over 20 military figures, along with many other display items.

From the get-go the teams understood that mannequin poses, sizing and stability would be paramount to the success of this project. Whilst various items were gradually collated from around the world, copious specification meetings and fit sessions took place, with close attention being paid to original reference images. Being faced with incomplete uniform sizes, the team had the predicament of displaying the surviving uniforms, with the knowledge that they wouldn’t necessarily have come from a single / same sized person. The difference in sizes, meant that each figure needed very carefully constructed measurements, in order that they would fit the individual uniform item but still look aesthetically correct. In addition, their conservation criteria demanded a mount period of 25 years without causing stress or damage to the uniforms. The weight of armaments and the location of the museum (situated directly above London tube lines) required that each figure be fitted with an internal metal structure, to provide essential support and stability.

Gems Studio’s Technical Manager; Sam Hoye comments, ‘I am very proud of the outcome of this commission. Our job is to follow complex briefs and envisage what our clients want, often, even before they do. This is what marks us out from other companies. We are able to think outside the box and are not afraid to experiment with ideas. It also helps that we have access to a vast library of mannequin moulds, shapes of which date back to the 1880s’.

proportion>london and Gems Studio are honoured to have collaborated with the IWM on the historic showcase of such a memorable and definitive period. For more information about the galleries, please visit the Imperial War Museum website.



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