First World War Galleries Re-development


  • Cunningham Martyn Design


‘Australia in the Great War’ is the $32 million 1,750m² redevelopment of the Australian War Memorial’s First World War galleries which opened to the public in December 2014. It is the first major refurbishment of the galleries in 40 years and one of the nation’s key contributions to the centenary of the conflict.

The re-development presented significant challenges in retaining and restoring the heritage values and character of the building while acknowledging the changed concept of commemoration and presenting the story of the First World War with veracity, depth and relevance to Australians today.

Key Features


A gentle but firm hand was taken to the galleries with every element of the scheme carefully composed and considered within the context of the site, the exhibition narrative and the end visitor experience. The majority of the gallery spaces reside within the original 1940s envelope therefor any proposed treatment underwent heritage appraisal – closely referencing original build fabric and character. The palette was drawn from the evocative materiality of the period and campaigns including fabrics, metals, leathers and timbers.

Iconic collection items, including the dioramas and major paintings, were painstakingly conserved to re-instate their optimum viewing and lighting conditions.


The exhibition integrates 140 points of technology from large-scale interactive screens to tablet-based digital labels. The lighting system is entirely LED which minimises heat, power consumption and lamp changeover.

The large scale Gallipoli touchwall embraces leading digital cartography and navigation technologies combined with archival aerial surveillance photography to explain the topography of the peninsula and significance of events at ANZAC Cove. The visitor audio experience is hosted on Memorial-provided devices activating tours utilising a leading-edge indoor positioning system with predictive live audio mixing software – a unique combination of technologies and a first of its kind in such an application.


The transformed galleries have been embraced by the public as they seek to re-connect with the much-loved National Collection while experiencing new and innovative interpretive techniques applied to the story of the century-old conflict. Australia\’s renewed yearning to understand and connect with the Spirit of ANZAC has led them to the Memorial in record numbers and the new First World War galleries offer a touchstone to facilitate this connection while offering a deeper understanding of our nation\’s pivotal role in the Great War and the men and women who served.

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