The National Memorial Arboretum, near Lichfield, Shropshire, UK is one of the most interesting places I have worked at (and there’s a lot of competition for positions on that list!).
Unusually and interestingly, it is that it is not the material or event history of the place itself that is important here, but the intangible heritage of national remembrance.
The Arboretum is a relatively new and rapidly growing attraction. It has well over 250,000 visitors a year yet is still little known to people unconnected to the military in the UK. That is likely to change because the Arboretum is changing and will change, as it is designed to do.
The National Memorial Arboretum is ‘where our Nation remembers’. It is, in its own words, ‘a living tribute that will for ever acknowledge the personal sacrifices made by the armed and civil services of this country’. In practical terms it is a developing arboretum where the tress both are memorials , and surround, two hundred (and the number is always growing) diverse memorial structures.
The memorials are diverse. Many sit within the landscape of young trees rather than directly referencing them. But many of the memorial designers seem to have drawn on the Arboretum for inspiration.
Working at the National Memorial Arboretum as interpretive planner in a multi-disciplinary team of experts has been fascinating. The Arboretum is a place and project designed to make people think. Lots of thought by many people has gone into how that will happen. I am very pleased to have contributed a few strands to that thinking, and grateful for how working here has added to my understanding of interpretation, memorial and remembrance.