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Fair and Square: In conversation with Justin Maciejewski

Our next episode of Fair & Square features Justin Maciejewski, Director of the National Army Museum. Before joining the management consultancy McKinsey, Justin had a long and distinguished Army service career. He believes the military and the evolving management of the armed forces have a significant bearing on wider society.

The military: less important or less visible?


The Army we have today is a smaller force than 50 years ago, however the role and values it embodies remain as important as ever – Justin argues. “I think it’s less visible…but it’s just as important to society because ultimately the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force are the Armed Forces that defend our very way of life. They protect our nation and its vital interests, and obviously in times of crisis Governments will often call on the Armed Forces to step in and help. We saw that during the pandemic – and because armies have no contract other than service to the nation, they’re an incredibly valuable resource”.


The National Army Museum – celebrating our history, and future

The National Army Museum celebrates the history of the Army, and the role it has played in forging identities. The Museum shares the history and stories of service men and women from across the world –India, Pakistan, the West Indies, East  and West Africa – who have served over the past centuries.


“We see stories of the past that can inspire us to think about how we want to develop and shape our own future, and it’s through those stories that we hope to inspire people as they shape the world we live in today”, says Justin.

Justin believes that the stories exhibited at the Museum “anchor our identity in a fast-changing world, and therefore offer a compass, in many ways, as to where we’ve come from, what we’ve done in the past, what our role is in the world, what have we sought to do with our Army. And these people are our ancestors: some volunteered, some were conscripted, but these are people from our families who’ve served over time, and this is what they’ve done, and this has in turn shaped who we are today.”


But it’s a fine balance – museums need to honour the past and curate the collection so it is relevant and accessible to present-day audiences. This is a key preoccupation many museum curators are having to navigate today. “Museums never stand still; they always evolve over time.” Justin explains: “how you choose to tell a story evolves over time… and we have to ensure that the way we make objects accessible moves with the times – in the way we use language and what we choose to say.”


For Justin, the central challenge is achieving both accessibility and trust. “If we’re being given the mission to tell a story of the past, we’ve got to tell that story in a way that can be trusted. And if we simply impose our current views on history, we will be seen as dumbing down at best, or distorting history, and we will lose that trust.”


Listen to the full interview below: