New 1916 exhibition opens at Ulster Museum

Diary entries and drawings found in an attic in Rostrevor 
Diary entries and drawings found in an attic in Rostrevor  Diary entries and drawings found in an attic in Rostrevor 

A HISTORICAL treasure trove of diary entries and drawings showing life on the front line during World War One has gone on display after being re-discovered in a Co Down attic.

Seen for the first time, a collection of sketches and poems showcase the artwork of Rostrevor nurse Olive Swanzy and the soldiers she cared for on the Western Front.

The new exhibition at the Ulster Museum also displays the wartime diaries of Jim Maultsaid, an Irish American soldier who served with the 14th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles and was seriously wounded on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

Both collections are part of a new exhibition exploring how creativity and innovation were able to flourish amidst the horrendous destruction of war.

Ms Swanzy's sketchbooks include watercolour scenes from the front painted by herself during spare time away from tending to the injured at a hospital in Rouen in northern France.

As well as her own artwork, the collection also includes creations by soldiers she cared for as she had urged her patients to draw and write in a big to aid their recovery.

Her collection was only discovered after the new owner of Ms Swanzy's former home in Rostrevor was clearing out the attic.

The 'Creative Centenaries #MakingHistory 1916 Exhibition' also includes a giant handmade drone 'war rug' commissioned by Dublin-based artist Jim Ricks and made by a family in Kabul, Afghanistan, which visitors will be able to sit on.

The five zone exhibition, led by the Nerve Centre, also includes an 'Armoured Pram for Derry' by Eamon O’Doherty and a new audio installation by Ceara Conway.

David Lewis from the Nerve Centre said: "This major interactive exhibition brings together music, art, illustration, early animations and never-seen-before archive material to highlight how ordinary people, both at home and on the front line, helped shape history.

"It is the latest exciting output from the Nerve Centre's Creative Centenaries project which uses digital technologies to explore our past in an inclusive, respectful way."

William Blair of National Museums Northern Ireland said: "This exhibition powerfully conveys how war can act as a catalyst for change, impacting on all aspects of life and driving change in society, politics and technology".