The Ngā Tapuwae New Zealand First World War Trails give users a greater understanding of New Zealand’s involvement in the Great War. Denise Stephens gives an insight into the development of one of the Government’s First World War centenary legacy projects.
One of the key projects of the First World War centenary programme was to provide an enhanced visitor and learning experience at Gallipoli and the Western Front for both those interested in, or unaware of, the New Zealand story. While some locations on and around these former battlefields provided a certain amount of detail on the New Zealand involvement, our story is unevenly told and in other places New Zealand is invisible. The idea of a trail was born, so that New Zealanders and others would be able to see the actual locations where New Zealand soldiers fought and to learn the stories behind the places.
Locales, a company specialising in visitor experiences and place-based story-telling, developed a concept for the trails in 2013. They worked with the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, the New Zealand Defence Force, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade, and overseas stakeholders to work out which places should be included in the trails, and the major themes and stories linked to those places.
The idea of a Māori name for the trails project was floated, and Ripeka Evans from Manatū Taonga - Ministry for Culture and Heritage coordinated a group to research, test and propose a name. A list of names was developed from a focus group and this was added to with further research. Ngā Tapuwae means ‘the footsteps’. It was not uncommon for people to be exhorted to follow in the footsteps of their ancestors. The trails contain ‘ngā tapuwae’ of the ancestors and appropriately their descendants – Māori and Pākehā alike – will be some of those who follow in their footsteps.
All users of Ngā Tapuwae will be able to follow in the New Zealand soldiers' footsteps through the app's travel guides, audio tours, personal stories, thematic articles and visual material.
A simple, attractive and authentically New Zealand visual design was developed to tie together all elements of the trails – website, apps, printed materials and signs.
Various options were explored when considering Ngā Tapuwae’s logo, but the silver fern stood out as a motif on which the project’s ideas could be realised. Key outputs of the project include signage and brochures in busy sites throughout France, Belgium and Turkey, so a silver fern-based design provided a distinctive icon which stands out in visitor centres’ crowded brochure racks.
Chris Hay, the Director of Locales, looked for unique ways in which the fern motif could be used. ‘This finally led to the idea of the soldiers actually walking along the fern stem,’ he explained. ‘It is as if they are walking along a road or a duckboard along the Western Front in silhouette, as many of those striking and haunting images of the First World War depict.’
The end result is a very moving pathway of soldiers, walking towards the front line. This tied in beautifully with the name chosen for the trails, Ngā Tapuwae.
Before work could begin on the visual design, however, it was important that the trails were up to date and the historical information was authoritative. Locales travelled to Gallipoli and Western Europe in April 2014 to map out the trails, ensuring they are easy to follow and will give visitors a good view of the actual battlefields. They worked with leading First World War historians Chris Pugsley and Ian McGibbon to develop the trails’ content, with assistance from MCH’s Heritage Services Branch.
The content includes audio tours and dramatized personal stories, written theme articles, printable guides, beautifully drawn infographics and battle maps, and historical photographs from New Zealand and overseas collections.
It was important for the trail design to be map-centric and enjoyable to interact with, so that people would want to use it to explore the places and listen to the stories of what happened there. The maps have an oblique view, which shows the terrain and its features, as well as a more conventional aerial view. The use of watercolour is reminiscent of maps of the time, while also being clear and easy to follow.
The Ngā Tapuwae Gallipoli trail is now completed and available online. Whether you’re travelling to Gallipoli, or just keen to learn more about the campaign and those who fought in it, download and immerse yourselves in the free apps or printable guides at ngatapuwae.govt.nz
Work is now underway on Ngā Tapuwae Western Front, which will explore New Zealand’s First World War history in France, Belgium and the United Kingdom. This trail will be available towards the end of 2015. Keep an eye on the Ngā Tapuwae website or WW100 Facebook page for updates.