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New exhibition at SOFO Museum to explore stories of children and military lives

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Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum in Woodstock has a new exhibition opening to explore stories of children and military lives
Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum in Woodstock has a new exhibition opening to explore stories of children and military lives. Image: Soldier reunited with daughter 2019 Millie Seveney-Liddell, courtesy of Little Troopers

Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum (SOFO Museum) in Woodstock has a new exhibition opening on 02 June and running to 24 November 2022 to explore stories of children and military lives.

This new exhibition will combine objects, personal stories, oral histories, art and photography to tell the stories of today’s service children (children of serving British Armed Forces personnel) and their experiences of living life in the military community.

It also covers stories of children who become victims of war, experiencing the effects of military conflict – from Second World War evacuees to today’s refugees and asylum seekers.

With a focus on Oxfordshire people, visitors will be able to see and hear what living through conflict is like first-hand, from recordings of evacuation memories to present day accounts from children who arrive in the county and experience a new culture here, processing their life experiences through art and personal stories.

SOFO Museum has partnered with two charities, Little Troopers and Brian McCarty’s War Toys, to bring this exhibition to visitors.

Little Troopers, a charity which supports all children who have parents serving in the British Armed Forces, will enable visitors to discover the stories and experiences of military children who have grown up in the Armed Forces community.

Explore how they cope with having their parents deployed overseas to different parts of the world; how they move house and school regularly, building friendships for what can be short periods and read and listen to their own reflections on what it‘s like to have military parents as these young people start to consider their own adult lives.

Louise Fetigan, the founder of Little Troopers, commented: “There are more than 100,000 children today who have parents serving in the British Armed Forces so it’s really important that we represent these children and give them the opportunity to tell their story and to share their unique experiences.

“Military life is full of challenge, change and adventure and this exhibit offers visitors a special insight into our Armed Forces community as seen through the eyes of military children.”

SOFO Museum has also collected accounts from children of the 1950s to 2000s whose parents were part of the British forces. Frequently these children experienced travelling across the globe, following in their father’s footsteps, often giving them unique life experiences they never forgot.

Also included in the exhibition is the unique photo series War Toys, which vividly brings to life the effects of war on children living in conflict zones around the world.

Acting as their own art directors, children often living in refugee camps are given the opportunity to depict real scenes from their experiences using toys and the local terrain.

The resulting images are impactful and thought-provoking and will provide visitors with an insight into a world that is far removed from our experiences of watching news programmes covering the camps in war zones.

The exhibition will not only run throughout both Armed Forces Day and Refugee Week but also the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

To mark the Jubilee, SOFO Museum will highlight the Queen’s own ‘military childhood’ and her Second World War service in the ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service) with a timeline of the nation’s toys and books.

The Museum has gathered toys from the 1940s to the present day as it looks at our enduring relationship with toys that depict war, from tin soldiers of yesterday to remote control drones of today.

Little Troopers is a registered charity supporting service children who have parent(s) serving in our British Armed Forces, regular or reserve. These children often face unique challenges including frequent house and school moves, as well as regular periods of separation from their serving parent(s) for varying lengths of time due to exercises, training, operations and other service commitments.

Brian McCarty’s War Toys is the non-profit organisation behind a project that invokes principles and practices of expressive art therapy to safely gather and articulate children’s accounts of war. Under the guidance of a specialised therapist and working through NGOs and UN agencies, boys and girls become art directors for narrative photos of locally sourced toys.

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