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In Flanders Fields Museum: the starting point for your battlefield trip

The In Flanders Fields Museum brings the story of the First World War to life through thought-provoking, interactive displays. Housed in the rebuilt Cloth Hall of Ypres (Belgium), a visit to the museum is the ideal starting point to take your school on a battlefield tour to Flanders Fields. The museum’s Learning Team has developed a wide range of educational programmes for different age groups, inside and outside the museum. Brand new is the free e-book '5 ways to learn about in Flanders Fields', written for British (history) teachers.

The In Flanders Fields Museum brings the story of the First World War to life through thought-provoking, interactive displays. Housed in the rebuilt Cloth Hall of Ypres (Belgium), a visit to the museum is the ideal starting point to take your school on a battlefield tour to Flanders Fields. The museum’s Learning Team has developed a wide range of educational programmes for different age groups, inside and outside the museum. Brand new is the free e-book '5 ways to learn about in Flanders Fields', written for British (history) teachers.

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Museum at the heart of the Ypres Salient

Week by week, the war evolved from a war of movement to a more static way of waging war. In the Ypres area, both armies dug in. From then on, soldiers fought from a system of trenches and mining galleries. In late October 1914, a bulge formed in the Front Line on the east side of Ypres. The city found itself in the middle of this salient. Known as the ‘Ypres Salient’, it became one of the most notorious war zones along the Western Front.

For the soldiers manning the trenches, every day became a life-and-death twist of fate. For the inhabitants of the city, daily life was made impossible. Houses were destroyed, valuable heritage sites such as churches and the Cloth Hall were shelled to rubble. The ruin of this magnificent building symbolises the destructive power of war, while its reconstruction shows impressive resilience. Today, inside the rebuilt Cloth Hall, the In Flanders Fields Museum is housed.

What’s in a name?

The In Flanders Fields Museum is named after the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’, written by Canadian Army doctor John McCrae. He wrote the lines in May 1915 at his aid post at Essex Farm, three kilometres north of the museum. Soon after its publication on 8 December 1915, the poem became well known among British soldiers. The symbol of the poppy is still present in the museum and the landscape today.

Human experience of war

The In Flanders Fields Museum focuses on the human experience of war. Hundreds of authentic objects give a captivating overview of wartime life. Dynamic and experiential displays tell the story of five years of warfare on both sides of the Front Line. Lifelike characters revive testimonies of soldiers but also experiences of refugees and civilians. A personalised poppy wristband pairs the students with a particular eyewitness. These various narratives confront students with the consequences of war and highlight how relevant its themes remain today. It is also possible to climb the belfry (bell tower). With more than 200 stairs, it’s worth the effort to give students a bird’s eye view of the former Ypres Salient battlefield.

Learning inside and outside the museum

Wouter, Ann-Sophie and Sien – the Learning Team of the In Flanders Fields Museum – are assisted by an enthusiastic group of educational volunteers. Their job is to make the complex history of the First World War accessible to teachers and their students.

“Teaching about the First World War is not just about telling what happened here a hundred years ago. It is also about looking at the similarities, drawing lessons from the past, and teaching students to be vigilant about the mechanisms that drag a whole community into war. In Flanders Fields, young people see what war does, on both sides of the Front. We go out with the group and let people who have lived through the war speak. These are fascinating encounters for young people from all over the world.” – Sien, Wouter & Ann-Sophie

The museum’s educational programme includes several tools to make a visit more captivating. A member of the Learning Team can guide the students through the museum, with or without a thematic focus. The visit can be combined with a workshop as well. Pupils can also explore the museum individually with an audioguide. On the museum’s website teachers can find a set of questions for a self-led visit to help students reflect on the stories they see and hear in the museum. In addition, the Learning Team brings the history of the First World War to life by honing in on the personal stories of eyewitnesses and by offering insight into the landscape where the battles raged.

During the newly developed day trip ‘The Salient Illustrated’, students discover the former battlefields of the northern Ypres Salient. A visit to the museum and a workshop will ensure they are well prepared to explore the landscape. During the tablet walk in the afternoon, students visit two battlefield cemeteries and the recently renovated site of Yorkshire Trench and Dugout. As they walk through the only British trench in the Ypres Salient, still in its original location, they compare the contemporary situation with historical images, videos and aerial photographs on their tablet. The large landscape illustration by British cartoonist Dave Chisholm helps them understand life in the trenches and shows how Yorkshire Trench fitted into the larger trench system.

Download ‘5 ways to learn about In Flanders Fields’

In the museum’s free e-book, the Learning Team offers you a glimpse of their educational approach. Moreover, it provides five sample First World War themes. For each topic, the team highlighted captivating objects on display inside the museum and a personal story told outside the museum walls.

Download your copy for free: iffm.be/ebook

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