THE differences between exhibiting art and history are becoming more narrow, and it’s no bad thing, ensuring art remains coherent and that history becomes more alive.

Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum’s latest show on the First World War uses old photographs and historical artefacts to present a ‘family-friendly’ exhibition called ‘Salisbury & The Great War: Fighting on the Home Front.’ I’ve been involved with the First World War Centenary, through ‘Postcards Home’ at the Rifles and ‘Cicatrix’, for most of this year, and it seems a shame that the day Cicatrix came down, the Museum show opened.

Dare I say that, given the subject matter, I enjoyed it? The terrible outcome of the war is spelled out in stories of young soldiers who went to France and did not return; there are gas masks and munitions, but the focus is on the domestic.

Earlier this year the museum appealed to local people for contributions, and there are many stories about home and the working life.

Some are quite a surprise, such as the man who opened a string of cinemas to serve the new army camps on the Plain, and so avoided conscription.

One can handle stereoscopic lenses and view 3D photos; there are replica uniforms to try on.

Sounds and smells are presented (unfortunately in nasty bright plastic housings). The stables smelled of horse manure, the pig farm of…yes, you guessed it!

In a strange way, this eclectic approach seemed a bit amateurish, but it adds to the charm.

A cricket ball exhibited next to a hand grenade? “Block this googly, Fritz!”

The American writer Bill Bryson gave an excellent write-up to Salisbury Museum.

In ‘Notes from a small island’, it seemed to be the only thing he liked about the UK. What would he think of the new Wessex Gallery which opened this summer, I wonder?

After seeing the Home Front exhibition I looked in for the first time. And I was spellbound.

Crossing the threshold is to step across centuries.

The Wessex is open plan, contemporary, and well-lit. It simply gleams with professionalism.

A collection that was once housed in dark and dingy casements has come to life in this well-designed space.

The £8 adult entry fee seems fair to visitors who want to see the Wessex Gallery, Home Front, Theresa Whitfield’s ‘Lace’, the costumes... in fact it’s good value.

For local people who might want to visit just the temporary exhibitions, it’s too much.

I put this to reception staff who explained they cannot prevent people visiting Home Front from getting access to the rest of the museum.

Why not rely on trust, I suggested?

Martin Urmson