A stunning online exhibition featuring Soviet propaganda posters from World War II has been launched by The University of Nottingham.
Windows on War: Soviet posters 1943-1945 is an online exhibition featuring 45 posters, 37 originally created for display in the windows of TASS — the Central Telegraph Agency in Moscow, which was the main news distributor during the Soviet period— and eight war prints made for wide distribution.
As Victory Day (Thursday 9 May) is marked across Europe, the celebratory sentiments of some of the posters featured are still powerful, even though almost 70 years has passed since the war ended. But alongside the excitement of victory, the exhibition explores themes of death, hunger, politics and violence. The way the Soviet propaganda machine played on the fears and hopes of the general population illustrated in vivid colour.
Broken down into three strands — On the Home Front, The Enemy and The Story — the exhibition examines the creation, intentions and use of the posters in great detail. Each poster is placed within ‘stories’ to provide context and simple routes through the site. The horizontal layout echoes the experience when visiting a real exhibition. They are featured full screen with hotspots and side panels providing information on the war context, design, artists and writers involved in their creation, giving a broad historical commentary.
The posters are part of a collection held by the University’s Manuscripts and Special Collections. They were originally donated by a former Professor of English at the institution, Vivian de Sola Pinto. Designed for short-term display, they were hand-stencilled in sections and many are now in such a delicate state that even the simplest handling would risk their disintegration. By painstakingly digitising the posters, the University has ensured that the images are accessible while the originals are preserved.
The exhibition is a collaboration between the University’s Department of Russian and Slavonic Studies, Manuscripts and Special Collections and the Web Technologies team. It is curated by Cynthia Marsh, Emeritus Professor of Russian Drama and Literature.
The team intend to add more posters and information to the exhibition over time. There are also various social media channels dedicated to the site, including Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.
“I’m delighted that these amazing posters have been made so accessible, not just to academics but to the general public,” said Prof Marsh. “The subject of propaganda in war time did not stop being relevant in 1945 — the methods and messages seen in this exhibition can still be seen around the world today.
“We hope that this exhibition generates real interest and debate. The images and the politics behind them are challenging. We hope it gets people talking, not just about history, but also about the way in which war propaganda is still used today, and whether propaganda can ever claim to be art.”
"It's been really interesting during conservation to find out more about how the posters were made in sections on a production line,” said Manuscripts conservator Robert Pearce. “The paper is poor quality which makes their survival all the more remarkable. The lack of exposure to pollutants and light has meant that the colours are still surprisingly vibrant."
Ian Wilson, Web Technologies Team Leader said: “This is a great example of what can be achieved through the close collaboration of academics, archivists and technologists. The goal was to honour the tremendous depth and breadth of the material yet make the experience engaging and accessible to the casual visitor.”
Visit the exhibition at windowsonwar.nottingham.ac.uk
Follow the exhibition on social media at windowsonwar.tumblr.com,
www.facebook.com/windowsonwar and @windowsonwar on Twitter.
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