Sunday, 7 July 2019

Eden Camp

Last week I visited Eden Camp, a WWII museum based in a genuine Prisoner of War camp that was used to hold German and Italian soldiers. I'd been to Eden Camp once before about 15 years ago with my family - my brother was into all things military, and as we were driving past anyway my parents thought it a great idea. At the time I couldn't think of anything more boring, but it captivated me and I'd been wanting to revisit ever since and so finally made the journey up to North Yorkshire.

Eden Camp
Eden Camp Eden Camp
Eden Camp
Eden Camp
Eden Camp

What makes Eden Camp so special is how immersive it is with it's interactive reconstructions that even smell like the period - you'll turn the corner and be hit with a strong whiff of coke coal or carbolic soap. It goes into these kind of details that you wouldn't expect, and shows the war as something human and illustrating what it was like for the everyday person rather than as something detached which is how I usually look at it - troops off fighting in Europe. It's a stark reminder that people back then didn't have that luxury of switching off from it, it impacted every aspect of their lives. There's even air raid sirens randomly going off throughout the day, warning you of a constant threat. It made me feel really proud of my country, of the unity, of everyone pulling together and making the best of things. And it made me a little sad too, as I can't imagine people being so selfless nowadays.

Eden Camp mostly focuses on how the war affected Britain, but there was a small exhibition detailing the effects further afield and an area dedicated to the Shoah (the preferred term by Jewish people as the word 'Holocaust' means a religious sacrifice, not mass murder. This is a good article). It was a really powerful exhibition that I found quite distressing, and at first I thought it a bit small as to me it's always felt like the biggest part of the war. But as the museum is focused on Britain and never shies away from the horrors and deep fears of what was happening around the globe, on reflection I felt that had the balance just right.

Eden Camp Eden Camp
Eden Camp
Eden Camp
Eden Camp
Eden Camp
Eden Camp
Eden Camp
Eden Camp
Eden Camp
Eden Camp

I couldn't help but notice that everything was high quality - all of the foods were packaged in tins and paper and card boxes, all of the clothes were natural fabrics, even the cotton bobbins were made of wood. You could tell the clothes were better quality than they are now (and I've been dealing in vintage for enough years to know this as a solid fact). You had to buy clothes with your rationing tokens as clothing and fabrics were rationed as well as food (fun fact: British people were the healthiest they've ever been during rationing, go figure) and there were only enough rationing tokens for one outfit per person per year. Gosh, can you imagine that nowadays?? I'm not one for fast fashion and haven't been for years and I reckon because of that I buy less than most, but even so I can't imagine! It really made me think about how unnecessary and consumerist driven we are nowadays. I loved peeking into the reconstructions of peoples living spaces and seeing open brickwork in their home, their mismatched furniture, their minimal decorative aspects. I can't even imagine owning so little. I wouldn't necessarily want to exist like that, and I think it's important to remember that these people didn't choose that life but were forced due to necessity, but it does inspire me to waste less and think about my purchases, and just try and continue being more purposeful like I've been trying to already.

The war has never been a topic of interest to me before, as I said I always found it boring as it just brought to mind the tedium of my stepdad watching The Great Escape every single Christmas. This museum really brought it to life for me and I couldn't stop thinking about it all week after.

4 comments:

  1. What an interesting post!

    I never knew that clothes and fabrics were rationed and that people were only allowed to get one outfit per year.

    That’s great that you got something out of it, and how you feel that you want to be more purposeful in your spending, I think that would be good for me to do too. :)

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    Replies
    1. I didn't know either! I knew some fabrics and items such as stockings were difficult to come by, but I didn't realise there was actual rationing restricting what people could purchase. It's really easy to get carried away nowadays, social media especially makes it difficult with people constantly showing things off, so it was really good to take a step back and see just how unnecessary it all is.

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  2. Looking into the past does make your rethink how we buy things. Like look at old desks and dressers and such, there is so much less space for things in general. Or older homes have smaller closets. I try and be really mindful about what I own because I get really flustered by just having too many of the little things. But I window shop all the time looking at just cute things.

    If you have time, you might want to download an episode of Stuff You Missed In History Class (a podcast) where they talk about how France dealt with Germany's rations on clothing.

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    Replies
    1. You know I've never thought that about old furniture before (probably as I don't own any so never realised they'd hold less) but that's a really good point! I'm the same, too much stuff makes me feel really stressed, but at the same time I get emotionally attached to things which is silly and I'm trying to work on.

      I'll definitely have to check out that podcast, thanks! This museum was a real eye opener at seeing how little we were taught in history, which is terrible as it affected our country so much, and I'm on a real kick for learning about it now!

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