Scars on the Heart covers the New Zealand civil wars and Anglo-Boer War of the 19th Century, the First and Second World Wars, the Asian conflicts and our armed forces involvement in recent United Nations peacekeeping missions.
The twin galleries are bridged by the World War I Sanctuary and the World War II Hall of Memories, where carved into marble is the permanent roll of honour of men and women from the Auckland Province (covering North Cape to Gisborne) who died for their country in the First and Second World Wars and in Korea, Malaya, Borneo and Vietnam. The Sanctuary and the Hall of Memories are the cornerstones of the Auckland War Memorial Museum.
The first stories visitors encounter are those of the New Zealand Wars of the 1840s and 1860s and the Anglo-Boer War of 1899 to 1902. Although not covered as extensively as the two World Wars, they are considered equally significant to our nation. The New Zealand Wars were essentially a civil war and they have an ongoing impact on New Zealand society today. The Anglo-Boer War fought in South Africa is examined for the relationship between New Zealand and the British Empire at the turn of the century. In fact, the war was seen as one of the first steps towards New Zealand assuming her own sense of identity as a nation.
The largest part of Scars on the Heart covers World Wars I and II, reflecting the extent of involvement of New Zealand forces and evidenced by the toll in the Roll of Honour next door.
The exhibition was created using the personal experiences of the armed forces and the New Zealanders who remained at home. Letting these voices speak lends considerable impact to the collection. Many of the items on display are small and of a personal nature, including letters to and from home, photographs and articles of clothing. Interactive computers allow visitors to browse through photo albums and diaries and handsets give oral histories of soldiers´ experiences.
There is a recreation of an Anzac bivvy at Gallipoli and a Western Front trench from the Great War, complete with periscopes to view the enemy with. A "captured" German bunker from the Western Front has soldiers´ bunks and the command post table of the New Zealand Brigade. A New Zealand soldier (digger) has left his belongings on one bunk while a German soldier´s belongings are displayed on another.
The Zero and Spitfire aeroplanes are two iconic World War II objects which many Museum visitors come to see. Both are displayed in their own galleries that have viewing platforms from which visitors can have a birds-eye-view of the planes.
Also included on this level of the Museum is The Armoury, a multimedia information centre where visitors can research New Zealand´s war time activities and consult the Cenotaph database which lists all New Zealand war dead. The Armoury also contains an extensive display of small arms through the ages.