Following our trip to the Air Museum earlier in the year, for our summer trip, Jim and I went to the Imperial War Museum in London.
Jim is a determined lad who knows what he wants and isn’t afraid to dream. He has a plan to build a huge video game empire with his younger brother and has worked out for himself that a knowledge of stories from history will give his future video creations a context and richness. Consequently, he has chosen history as one of his elective subjects at school.
Early one morning in August, armed with enough sandwiches and snacks to feed a small army, we set off from Yeovil Junction. Jim talked about the history work he would be doing at school and how he would like to go on a school trip to Auschwitz scheduled for next summer.
We had chosen one of the hottest days of the year and it was already steamy by the time we arrived at the museum. What a wonderful, thought-provoking place. With five or more floors to choose from, and with an eye to Jim’s school syllabus, we decided that we would tour the First World War section in the morning and then the Holocaust exhibition after lunch.
We walked slowly through the maze of ground floor exhibits that made up the story of the First World War. Jim took his time, relating what he saw to his schoolwork and his own understanding of that conflict. It took 90 minutes to complete the tour and afterwards, as we searched for a picnic spot in the trees, it became obvious that the morning had had a profound effect upon us both. Jim was quieter than usual and focusing on people rather than things. A year or so ago, he would have been fascinated by the machinery of warfare, now he was becoming equally interested in the human stories.
The afternoon tour of the Holocaust exhibition was an equally thoughtful experience. With far fewer visitors, the quietness of the rooms added to the drama and horror of the unfolding story. It took much longer than we had expected, and we had to break off early as we ran out of time. I think we were both relieved to leave the exhibition behind, but also aware that the experience would live with us both for a long time.
To complete the day, we took the tube into Leicester Square and tried to lift our spirits with a visit to TGI Fridays. While the burgers were good, the subject of our discussions remained focused on the earlier visit. It had obviously been a stimulating day for Jim, and he was even more determined to visit Auschwitz.
Since that hot day in August, Jim has started his Year 10 studies and has already quoted his museum experience in some of his work. He is booked for the trip to Auschwitz next summer and I am sure that our museum visit will help him to prepare for and make the most of what can be a life-changing experience.
On behalf of Jim I would like to thank Helen and the STAR trustees for the opportunities that your funding provides to children like Jim.