I enjoyed seeing embassies and monuments in Canberra, but the single best thing the city had to offer, as far as I was concerned, was the Australian War Memorial. This is not, as the name might suggest, simply a structure in honor of the valiant fallen, though that honoring is present. This edifice is also an astonishing museum, art gallery, library, and repository of nearly everything that has touched the country from every war since Australian federation—hundreds of thousands of documents and tens of thousands of relics. It is said that one could spend days there, though I had to settle for hours.
The stories recounted in the museum—in paintings, dioramas, and tableaux—range from heart-warming to heart-rending. If you’ve got my book, you’ll know the ones that touched me most. But there were so many that were moving and worth knowing.
There is no way that I can cover everything this fabulous place has to offer, so I’ll simply offer a link to the museum portion of their website and let you explore. http://www.awm.gov.au/visit/
I know, of course, that not only Australia has been touched by war, but there is a universality in suffering and heroism that makes the stories haunting. In addition, few other than Australians tell the stories of Australian participation in the wars of the last century or so, and it is good to realize how involved Australia was in most of the wars that also touched the United States—and often involved long before the U.S. entered the wars, as was the case in the two World Wars. Amazing history.
The trip to Canberra was worth it for the Australian War Memorial, even if there had been nothing else.