Archive

20 June until 2 November 2014
War and Propaganda 14/18

World War I is considered the first global mass-media event of modern times. When it started in August 1914, presumably no one anticipated that the horrific combat operations would drag on for four years and cost more than seventeen million lives. Regarded at the time as a “new weapon” in warfare, the propaganda efforts of the participating nations are today thought to be one cause of the war’s unexpected duration and intensity. Against the background of the research into mass psychology taking place at the same time, they exploited the arsenal of the mass media and tested innovative propaganda strategies in the battle for public attention at home and abroad. The masses were considered uncritical, impulsive and impressionable by the political leaders. With tales of atrocities and heroism and the constant repetition of key messages, the opinion makers endeavoured to generate effective images and create a bellicose mood. In Germany the war was presented as the “seminal catastrophe”, for the French it was the “great war”, and for the Poles the “national liberation”. A hundred years after the outbreak of World War I, with an exhibition entitled “War and Propaganda 14/18”, the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg (MKG) is providing insight into the broad spectrum of mass manipulation carried out during the period in question. The show features examples of the most important forms, structures and methods of opinion control – the same methods which, hand in hand with the further development of the modern mass media, are encountered in our own time in ever new and ever more subtle forms in the context of conflicts and military disputes. More than four hundred objects from the German Reich, France, England, the U.S., Russia, Italy and Austro-Hungary are on view in the show. The exhibition shows posters, films, sculptures, photographs, illustrated magazines and objects of everyday life such as children’s toys or patriotic emblems. Historical audio recordings and music from the period of the First World War as well as graphic work by artists and postcards are further important aspects of the exhibition. The exhibition is being made possible with funds from the Department of Culture and the IT-Globalfonds of the Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg, the Hubertus Wald Stiftung and the Justus Brinckmann Gesellschaft.