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Our Military Heritage Project – From Grass Roots to Interest Abroad

The Blue Mountains Public Library

It all started in 2019, when The Blue Mountains Public Library led a small and successful pilot project that profiled two Veterans: an anti-tank officer from Craigleith, Ontario, and a pilot from Thornbury, Ontario. Residents were receptive and proud to learn so much about their local heroes.

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“It was an idea that our community and museum partnered together and it completely exceeded our expectations as it soon began reaching people around the world,” says Andrea Wilson, Curator at the library.

With so much growing international interest, Wilson and others at the museum quickly realized that building a virtual exhibit would be one of the best ways to share history. Connecting the average citizen with Veterans and their families abroad was truly remarkable.

“We were able to track usage from these two test exhibits and found that not only were locals interested in these records, but also people from across Canada and around the world, including India, Ireland, Turkey, England, the Netherlands and the United States,” says Wilson.

The Military Heritage Project was funded in part by our Commemorative Partnership Program. The virtual exhibit began on 15 February and runs until 31 October, 2020. It connects the historical accomplishments of Canadian Veterans with people overseas as a way to commemorate individuals who have worn a Canadian Armed Forces uniform.

With additional resources available to them, local volunteers from The Blue Mountains Public Library, Craigleith Heritage Depot branch, widened the project’s scope. It went on to welcome all users who share a passion for history. Collectively, people can celebrate the interconnections and historical military milestones.

The virtual exhibit allows people to promote history and honour the legacy of Veterans at the same time. It provides one-stop access to collections of archives and artifacts that relate to military history, local Veterans and their stories. Users can access documents, historic photographs, works of art, memorabilia and various images of war memorials, plaques, and monuments. Individuals and community groups can also make their own submissions to the exhibit to preserve the legacies of those who have served.

In touch with history

In doing research, Wilson recalls her reaction to the Jim Hall Memoirs as she stumbled upon a connection to her own family story. “It was completely unexpected,” she says. Mr. Hall spoke about the training on the tank ranges in England during the Second World War. He described the scene as he was coming off the range and looking up to see all the gliders heading to the D-Day invasion, hauling soldiers and equipment across the channel. Among those troops? Wilson’s own father. “He was up there as one of the glider pilots and it struck me to think that years later that part of history would be featured here at home.” 

An exciting prospect

With roughly 240 Veterans featured so far, The Blue Mountains Public Library continues to compile more names, facts and figures to add to its historic collection. The local Legion in Clarksburg, Ontario, plans to use the online resources to support educational and outreach programming. “It’s a format that students understand and are accustomed to using, that being an easily searchable digital collection,” says Wilson. Students can also upload their own projects to share their knowledge and be a part of the memory building.

Looking onward

Our military heritage connects us across time and place. From small rural communities to large Canadian cities to countries around the world, all had their part to play in the war. Our war heroes are a common thread that links us together. “Veterans made a difference at home and around the world, so it makes sense that others would be interested in learning more about these war stories,” concludes Wilson.

She encourages people to bring out their old family pictures, wartime images and memorabilia tucked away in the attic or basement and find a proper home for them. Displaying these artifacts is a way to honour our Veterans and their families, and to preserve their legacy of bravery and sacrifice.     

Honouring Canada’s Veterans

Veterans Affairs Canada is committed to honouring those who served Canada during times of war, military conflict and peace, and to keeping the memory of their achievements and sacrifices alive for all Canadians. Funding is available to organizations that undertake commemorative initiatives through the Commemorative Partnership Program.

Date published: 2020-11-19


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