War memorial brings Charles Bean's work to life

Saturday, 11th November, 2017

Australian War Memorial director Brendan Nelson launches the Art of Nation interactive gallery.

ALMOST a century ago war historian Charles Bean dreamed up his vision for an Australian war memorial museum.

While Bean's vision hasn't changed, technology certainly has.

And now more than 600 artworks and photographs of World War I are being brought to life in a new interactive online gallery, launched by the Australian War Memorial on the eve of Remembrance Day 2017.

Art of nation: Australia's official art and photography of the First World War is a vast three-dimensional interactive experience - accessed online - based around Bean's proposed design for the museum.

As Bean returned to Australia from the war in 1919 he sketched his vision for the memorial.

Director of the Australian War Memorial Dr Brendan Nelson said the interactive exhibition honours Bean's legacy and will allow a new generation of users to understand the vision behind the memorial that has become a national institution and an international icon.

From their computer or tablet users from around the world can explore the virtual building and its paintings and photographs, while a street view feature allows them to compare the locations depicted in original works to how they appear today.

"Charles Bean was witness to it all. He was embedded with the troops on Gallipoli through to the end of the war, after which he wrote the official history of Australia's involvement in that conflict.

"In the midst of that work he conceptualised a vast museum to commemorate the service and sacrifice of those Australians, a vision that is superbly translated in bricks and mortar here in Canberra," Dr Nelson said.

"This fully navigable online presence means people from around the world can visit this special place and see the memorial's magnificent collection in the way Bean first envisaged."

The online tool also features animations showing the complex darkroom processes Frank Hurley used to create his iconic composite images, and recreates a magic lantern show using the rare colour Paget plates.

The online exhibition was officially launched by renowned journalist and author Scott Bevan, who is also serving as Master of Ceremonies for the Memorial's Remembrance Day ceremony.

  • Art of nation is available on the memorial's website,, complete with an instructional video tour.

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