The design of the exhibition at the ANZAC Memorial Center in Be’er Sheva integrates a dialogue between symbols, shapes and designs inspired by household furnishings in Australia and New Zealand during the WWI period and keeps to a clean, minimalist design aesthetic that utilizes metallic materials. The graphic design too takes inspiration from the colors and graphic elements popular at the beginning of the 20th century.
The walkthrough of the center seeks to present the story of the ANZAC fighters in three main cycles: the general story of the cavalrymen fighting so far from home, the personal story of each soldier and their personal coping with the difficulties of war, and the battle for Be’er Sheva, which was conquered only after the commanders, faced with a difficult dilemma, decided what they decided.
A glance from the outside
Passersby on the street where the center is located can recognize that there is something “happening” here even from the outside. They can spot figures, statues of a horse with a cavalryman next to it along with two other fighters. The statues of the horse and the soldiers incite curiosity and invite the onlookers to approach.
A big information billboard hangs on the side of the building with a photograph of the horsemen storming Be’er Sheva. Under the photograph, as a kind of headline, is a quotation describing the assault in poetic and moving terms. Next to the photograph, there is a text briefly relating the story of the Battle for Be’er Sheva, fought on October 31, 1917.
Passersby and visitors are invited to take a picture with the figures as a souvenir.
Immediately past the front door, next to the reception counter, you will find a round table reminiscent of a family dining table. On the table is a map of the ANZAC Trail, which describes the Great Outflanking that the fighters carried out clandestinely over the course of three nights, on their way from the Gaza Strip to Be’er Sheva. With the help of this map, the families of the cavalrymen, ostensibly seated around the table, can follow their journey. Next to the table hangs an information board recounting the story of the ANZACs’ journey from Gaza to Be’er Sheva.
At the reception counter, visitors can “enlist” in the war effort. Two monitors display authentic posters calling on residents of Australia and New Zealand to join the army and fight alongside the British in the Great War.
The display cabinet is located next to the reception counter. On the side facing the entrance are authentic items found at World War I battlefields, including buttons and unit badges, beer bottles and stirrups. Particularly affecting exhibits were brought over from Australia, including the bugle of Company C with which the signal for the company’s assault on Be’er Sheva was given. There are also replicas of clothing from those days.
The display cabinet’s design is inspired by period furniture and combines interactive screens that enable browsing and item selection for more rich and detailed information about each exhibit.
The ANZACs Journey wall
On the wall opposite the entrance there are large information boards marking the main stations that the fighters underwent from the time of their recruitment until the conquest of Be’er Sheva. The visitors accompany the fighters from the moment of enlistment and training, through the voyage to the Middle East, the failure in Gallipoli, Egypt, the battles in Sinai and Gaza, up to the conquest of Be’er Sheva.
The information boards’ appearance was inspired by pages from photo albums and memoirs written by the soldiers. The panels include screens displaying alternating images and original videos from those days.
Next to the wall are tables and chairs in early 20th century style, and through photographs and personal documents, visitors are exposed to the personal story of one particular soldier. The visitors join him from the day he enlisted, sail with him to Egypt, journey through Sinai and the Negev, and receive from his commander the dramatic account of the moment he was killed in battle and buried in the British military cemetery in Be’er Sheva, right next to the visitors’ center.
Small tales from the Great War
On the wall opposite the ANZACs Journey wall, four interactive stations tell six “small tales from the Great War”, symbolic stories that represent some of the fighters’ experiences: their daily lives (“itching all the way to glory”), their bonds with the horses (“the horses were left behind”), dealing with water shortages, the first appearance of the tank on the battle arena in the Land of Israel, and the importance of Be’er Sheva as a key to the conquest of the Land of Israel.
A special chapter is dedicated to George Lambert, the Australian war painter, who brought back his drawings and impressions from the battlefields.
In the photo corner, visitors are invited to have their picture taken against the backdrop of a photo from the old days, with an Australian cavalryman. The photo is taken by a camera resembling a camera from the period. The photo is then made available as a souvenir in the visitor’s digital account.
Next to the photo corner, visitors will find the entrance to a bunker, made to resemble the bunkers that surrounded Gaza at the time. The entrance leads to a large elevator, where the visitors have the chance to watch an audiovisual program telling the story of the ANZAC cavalry until the conquest of Be’er Sheva. A war veteran visiting his family at the British military cemetery in Be’er Sheva pays his respects to his fallen comrades while recounting the story of the ANZACs’ voyage from Australia, via Gallipoli to Gaza and Be’er Sheva.
The elevator slowly goes up and at the end of the performance, surprise: the elevator doors open and the visitors find themselves taking in the view of the impressive cemetery from the balcony. The calm after the storm. On the balcony, an inscription quotes from the text that appears on the tombstone of the Jewish soldier Seymour van de Berg: “So far from home, so close to his loved ones.”
A moving finale
The visitors quietly make their way down the external staircase, back to the visitors’ center. Here, they encounter an information board about the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, which owns the land on which the Center is situated. This is the also the time to get acquainted with the other side of the display cabinet and look at the touching memorabilia from the soldiers’ estates, including a commemorative plaque sent to the family of a fallen soldier, the personal diary of another soldier and the tags of a cavalryman killed in the Battle for Be’er Sheva and buried in the city’s cemetery. Here too, the visitors can access more in-depth knowledge using the touch screens.
Written by Doron Gumpert and Dalia Pelek Zaguri, content designers at the ANZAC Memorial Center.