Perhaps the most striking part of the new “Soldiers at Stonehenge” exhibition that opened this week is the projection of WWI footage on to the ring of prehistoric standing stones. Part memorial, part public art, the ancient site stood at the center of Britain’s military training camp from 1914-1918. Historical artifacts and photographs will complete the stories of the 180,000 soldiers and the surrounding community in this exhibit, which runs through April 2015.
The average visitor to the age-old Stonehenge site probably wouldn’t expect it to have such a significant military connection, particularly in the relatively recent context of WWI. While some viewers may understandably prefer that Stonehenge be left to stand untouched, the overall invasiveness of these light projections appears to be quite benign. Further, the visual spectacle of seeing footage on such a well-known monument will surely attract more attention to the subject, further educating the many visitors to Stonehenge over the next six months.
Compared to the growing problem of “artists” vandalizing national parks and monuments with acrylic paint (not chalk) images, this temporal Soldiers at Stonehenge exhibit looks to be a unique way to connect the ancient past with more recent interpretations of human conflict and history.