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New Ipswich man subject of interactive World War II museum exhibit

  • Walter Bursiel in 1943 —COURTESY OF WRIGHT MUSEUM

  • The main menu screen at the interactive exhibit. —COURTESY OF WRIGHT MUSEUM



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Tuesday, June 13, 2017

A New Ipswich resident for half a century, Walter Bursiel is the subject of a new interactive exhibit at the Wright Museum of World War II in Wolfeboro.

When he died in 1997, Bursiel left his wartime log to his son. It is filled with sketches and poems by members of Bursiel’s group from when they were prisoners of war in Nazi Germany. That log is now the centerpiece of the new exhibit.

“My father-in-law was a prisoner of war and I had his journal, and I thought, What should I do with this? I wish more people could see it,” Susan Bursiel of Peterborough, Walter’s daughter-in-law who donated the historical book, said. “It wasn’t doing any good sitting at my house so I brought it up to the Wright Museum.”

She had been with her husband, a Vietnam veterant who himself died five years ago, to the museum in the past, and donated the journal last summer.

According to Susan, it contains contributions from many servicemen Walter Bursiel was with, including poetry, letters and ever descriptions of their dream meals when they got home.

He enlisted in 1943 at age 19 and served in all theaters of the war. In about October 1944, he was captured and held for ten months in what is now Poland. The experience is not something he liked to talk about, especially because it was classified for many years, so the log gave his family a chance to explore his past.

“I wish we’d been able to go through it with him and ask about the people in it,” she said. “but he was really reserved about that time.”

Altogether, Susan Bursiel described her father-in-law as “a lot of fun, a good person.” She hopes this will be a good teaching tool for students who might otherwise not learn much about twentieth-century wartime.

She worked with Justin Gamache, an operations assistant at the museum, to make the log exhibit happen.

“It is a very powerful journal to read,” he said. “Last year we got a touch screen and we were looking for a story to tell our visitors, and I thought of the log.”

Along with the 49 inch screen that allows visitors to flip through the pages of Bursiel’s book, there is biographical information about the lifelong New Englander, and information about his crew and plane.

Gamache said the feedback so far has all been positive.

After his service, Bursiel moved to New Ipswich and was the caretaker for the Barrett House for over 40 years.

The exhibit will be displayed at least through the Wright Museum’s 2017 season, which began in May and runs through the end of October. Gamache said in the future they might choose to cycle this exhibit with other interactive ones on the touch screen, but for this year, it will be a constant presence.