Menu toggle

National Museum of Australia

Where our stories come alive

Collection Explorer

4

World War One period medallion and badge display shield

2005.0012.0001

World War One period medallion and badge display shield

Object information

Physical description

A shield-shaped wooden board with two detachable legs, and with a thick layer of resin on the front surface to which are fixed buttons, badges, pins and medallions. The shield has approximately 630 buttons, with seven losses, and those in the centre are arranged in a star-like pattern. The left leg has 23 badges with two losses; the right leg has 24 badges. They display dates between 1916 and 1924, and features various themes including the Red Cross, soldier support, Australia Day and commemorations of World War One-related places, events and individuals. At the upper centre of the shield is a badge in the 'Rising Sun' design marked 'AUSTRALIAN COMMONWEALTH / MILITARY FORCES', and a medal depicting a World War One Australian soldier. The resin is painted with Australian motifs including flowers and birds, including a wreath of wattle blossom around the central section. Two timber cross-pieces are attached to the reverse of the shield. Each leg has angled notches to fit the crosspieces on the shield, four screw holes, and a wooden peg at mid-length to suppport the shield, above which the wood is not covered with resin.

Statement of significance

The World War One Button Shield Collection comprises a large wooden board cut into the shape of an heraldic shield and adorned with fundraising buttons, military badges, a military medallion, and painted representations of wattle blossom and other imagery. The object was made sometime after the end of World War One, probably in the early 1920s. Dates on the fundraising buttons range from 1915 to 1920. Two support legs onto which buttons are fixed are also part of the collection. The object is in good condition.

The significance of the World War One Button Shield Collection has two primary dimensions, both relating to the role of South Australian women in the war and its aftermath. As a substantial collection of fundraising buttons and related material, the shield records the extraordinary fundraising efforts undertaken across South Australia during and immediately after World War One. Women usually took the initiative and responsibility for button selling and many other war-related fundraising activities. Second, the shield records a cultural process by which the history and human losses of World War One were remembered and invested with meaning. A rich use of national symbolism reflects the significance of World War One in the cultural construction of the recently federated nation of Australia. The incorporation of national symbols into the design of the shield also suggests a search for national meanings and perhaps redemption in the losses and disruptions of World War One.

Object information

Back to top