Sir Peter Jackson shows off his Great War Exhibition in Wellington

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Time lapse footage shows replica WWI items being lifted and lowered by crane into Wellington's old Dominion Museum for Sir Peter Jackson's Great War Exhibition which opens on Saturday April 18.

Sir Peter Jackson has unveiled the Great War exhibition he helped created to mark the centenary of the Gallipoli landings.

Jackson, who served as "creative genius" on the $10 million project, gave media a guided tour on Friday of the exhibition inside the former Dominion Museum building in central Wellington.

His exhibition tells the story of World War 1 from its pre-1914 origins to the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, honouring the role many Kiwis played.

 

"It's not an anti-war museum, it's certainly not a glorifying war museum. It is just showing the reality," Jackson said.

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"I wanted to tell it from the point of view of the people who were there, who were just doing what they were told, really."

Film maker Sir Peter Jackson shows off the WWI exhibition he helped create at the former Dominion Museum in Wellington.
Cameron Burnell/Fairfax NZ

Film maker Sir Peter Jackson shows off the WWI exhibition he helped create at the former Dominion Museum in Wellington.

Museum-goers start their journey in a "peaceful" European street setting in 1914. As they walk through the exhibition they are shown the experiences of conscription and shipping out for war, before being emersed in recreations of battle scenes, including life-sizes tanks and weapons.

The sounds of men merrily marching off to war are present at the start but are soon replaced by the rolling thunder of tanks, gunfire and shelling.

Many of the artillery pieces and uniforms sprinkled throughout the exhibition are from Jackson's personal collection, while other pieces were donated from war museums in France and Belgium.

Jackson tapped into the  creative talents of his teams at Wingnut Films and Weta Workshop to create the experience over the past three months.

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One of the main reasons he undertook the project was to tell the story of the Great War to younger generations.

"A lot of young people today aren't going to read stuffy history books," he said.

"[The exhibition] is not designed for kids, but I just wanted to ... capture the younger people who don't feel they have any interest in the First World War."

Every inch of the exhibition is in colour, with Jackson explaining he placed a ban on black and white.

"Most people have the idea of World War I being a black and white war, because of the photography of the time," he said.

"But the soldiers didn't experience a black and white war ... I just wanted people to be able to see war in colour, as the soldiers saw it."

Jackson's Great War exhibition will open to the public on Saturday after the National War Memorial Park, in front of the Dominion Museum building, is officially opened by Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae and Prime Minister John Key at midday.

Over the next four years the exhibition will evolve and change to reflect key periods during World War I.

An additional exhibit, known as the New Zealand Room, will open on Anzac Day. It will tell the story of the Gallipoli landings and provide a detailed look at New Zealand's role in that campaign.

Then in August, the Trench Exhibition will open, offering a close-up experience of trench warfare where visitors will hear and smell the challenging environment that thousands of men lived and fought in.

Those smells would include dead bodies, rats, cooking, gun oil, and latrines, according to former chief of the Defence Force, Lieutenant General Rhys Jones, who is now executive director of the National Military Heritage Charitable Trust.

"Peter Jackson is very proud of the smells he's personally selected," Jones said.

"He wants every kid who comes through here to be excited and to be in wonderment about everything they've seen."

The Great War exhibition will be open until the centenary of Armistice Day in 2018. About 500,000 people are expected to visit during its first year.

About $10m has been spent on the project to date, with $7m coming from taxpayers, $2m from Wellington City Council and the remainder from private sponsors.

 - Stuff

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