Updated: visualising Data at the House of Commons

Posted on May 23rd, 2012 by Chris Twigg

For the past few weeks I’ve been working on data visualisations for an exhibition that opens today in the House of Commons, London. The exhibition relates to a memorial to the aircrew of RAF Bomber Command who gave their lives in World War Two, which is currently being built in Green Park, London, and opens this year.

This is a project of great personal interest to me and one that contains an extraordinary amount of data, and pertinent to the area in which I live and work, Lincoln. A great deal of this military campaign was fought from the area known as ‘Bomber County’, as well as from parts of Yorkshire and Cambridgeshire.

In this work I aim to depict the magnitude, effort and sacrifice involved in the Bomber Command campaign by communicating aspects of it through data visualisation.

Below you can see seven panels which were displayed as part of this exhibition. The panels are printed in large format and are displayed with other artefacts and information panels.

My approach in this work has been to balance visualising data with aesthetic style and storytelling, so whilst the work really isn’t data visualisation in its proper analytical sense, each piece is informed and driven by data.

Sebastian Cox, head of the Air Historical Branch of the RAF, describes the exhibition: ‘This small exhibition is designed, using text, photographs, paintings and exhibits, to illustrate the sacrifice and achievements of RAF Bomber Command throughout the six years of the Second World War. It highlights the sacrifice of the 55573 airmen who died and their considerable contribution to the defeat of Hitler and the Nazi state. A section of the exhibition, incorporating artist’s impressions, drawings and an architect’s model, illustrates the plans for the Memorial being erected in The Green Park.” Additionally: the exhibition has been put together by the Bomber Command Association and will include an architect’s model and illustrations of the commemorative memorial scheduled to open in Green Park this summer. The display will illustrate the history of Bomber Command and its role during the Second World War by using information panels, photographs and exhibits, including a bombsight, aircrew logbook, flak maps and targeting material.’

Perhaps one of the most rewarding and emotional aspects of being involved was to see veterans of Bomber Command at the reception in Westminster today, who are now at a very old age. It’s virtually impossible to appreciate what it would have taken for these people to carry out their work, and this data can only at best only give us an impression of what being a world war two bomber crew entailed.

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The location of the exhibition is near to the MP’s waiting chamber in the House of Commons.

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Exhibition view inside the Members of Parliament waiting chamber.

View of several panels that were included in the exhibition.

 

It’s a delight to be part of this work which in two ways is close to my heart, through both the historical aspect of this military campaign and by telling stories through data.

 

—- UPDATE 28th June —-

On another sweltering hot day, many of the remaining war veterans gathered for the opening of a memorial to the Bomber Command in Green Park, to which the above exhibition and data visualisations related. A few pictures from a very atmospheric event…

World war 2 Bomber Command veterans in Green Park

Impeccably dressed men and women of the Royal Air Force

The Queen arriving

The Lancaster bomber dropping tens of thousands of Red paper poppies

One of the poppies

Full coverage went out of this event on the BBC News

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