Simpson Design has created a bold and immersive setting for an exploration of the fictions and facts surrounding one of World War I's most infamous Allied defeats. Gallipoli: Myth and Memory opened at the National Museum last month to coincide with the centenary of the Gallipoli campaign.
Full height environmental graphics throughout the space create a strong, unified presentation filled with monochrome images and text blocks placed at jagged, precipitous angles. This graphic treatment was inspired by the 'dazzle' camouflage used on one of the key surviving ships, HMS M33 (it was devised by the Royal Navy to mask the shape, scale and even direction of their vessels). It also chimes with the controversy over the campaign's management and conception, as well as the rugged, hugely problematic terrain of the Gallipoli peninsula on which the Allied troops landed and which the Turks successfully defended from the hilltops, killing or wounding 200,000 of the troops drawn from Australia, New Zealand, Britain and France, and causing their eventual withdrawal eight months later.
A deep red is the base colour for the graphic panels, with four themed zones highlighted in different hues: for example, deep blue flags up the naval campaign, green is used for the landing and brown to convey the fact that all soldiers buried there are sons under the same soil. To clarify the realities of the campaign, many personal items have been loaned or drawn from the NMRN's newly amalgamated museums' collection, including letters from soldiers on the ground to their loved ones and between Churchill and his naval commanders. The atmosphere and narrative charge created by the artefacts and graphic treatment are set against the simple, timber pillars and floor of this historic gallery within the NMRN's dockside buildings; it features occasional transparent glass floor tiles which reveal the ancient ships' timbers that lie beneath the contemporary floor.
Philip Simpson created a new identity logo for the Gallipoli collection, inspired by the official stamps that would have been used to authorise documents during the campaign. These will be used throughout the NMRN's collection, to flag up Gallipoli related items. He also commissioned film maker Anna Farthing of Harvest Films to create a stirring A/V at the entrance of the space, setting the scene of the battle in all its power to draw the visitor inside.