SPARK Showcase Exhibit – Peterborough Public Library

SPARK Exhibit

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The Coones Twins

Thomas died at Vimy; John survived the war. (PMA, Balsillie Collection of Roy Studio Images 2000-012-011647-2)

On the home front

Red Cross volunteers in Peterborough produced some 50,000 pairs of socks which were sent off to the front. (PMA, Balsillie Collection of Roy Studio Images 2000-012-003771-1)

Canadian nurses voting at a French hospital

Presumably they helped re-elect PM Borden so that conscription would be enforced. (Collections Canada, Mikan 3623046)

Private Edgar Mowry

died of shrapnel wounds at a Passchendaele Casualty Clearing Station, 3 November 1917. (PMA, Balsillie Collection of Roy Studio Images 2000-012-01481-1)

Private Edgar Mowry

drafted after Borden’s 1917 re-election, despite food shortages here and earlier Borden promises to exempt farm labour. (PMA, Balsillie Collection of Roy Studio Images 2000-012-002752-1)

Private Charles McCusker

born in Massachusetts, farmed in Millbrook, parents on Bolivar St; died on Vimy Ridge, 9th April 1917. (PMA, Balsillie Collection of Roy Studio Images 2000-012-014823-1)

Canadian Troops arriving in Mons on Armistice Day

(Collections Canada, Mikan 3522379)

SPARK Showcase Exhibit
The Loss of Innocence, The Birth of A Nation: Remembering 1917 and the Great War 1914 – 1918

A SPARK Showcase Exhibit drawn from the collections of the Peterborough Museum & Archives
Peterborough Public Library, Peterborough Square, Lower Level
360 George St N
Phone (705) 745 5382

M to Th 10 am to 8 pm
F & Sat 10 am to 5 pm
Sun 2 pm to 5 pm
Closed Easter Weekend Fri April 14 through Mon April 17

In 2017, Canadians everywhere will mark the 150th anniversary of Confederation. It will also be a time to remember another occasion of national pride and nation building, the 100th anniversary of significant World War 1 battles, most notably those at Vimy Ridge (9-12 April 1917) and Passchendaele. While Canadian leadership and tenacity played a key role right through to the 11 November 1918 armistice and beyond, it was success at Vimy in 1917 that marked a coming-of-age in terms both of Canadian self-awareness and the respect it earned from others.

Canada was drawn into WW1 simply because it was a British dominion when the “mother country” declared war in August 1914. However, when the war was over Canada sat at the table with the big powers when the Treaty of Versailles was signed in June 1919. Canada had paid a high price for this. At the end of the war, total casualties stood at 67,000 killed and 250,000 wounded, out of an expeditionary force of 620,000 people mobilized. To this, of course, we could add the 9,000 casualties of the December 1917 munitions explosion in Halifax. Even the casualties of Peterborough’s Quaker explosion of 1916 should be tallied, because they resulted from efforts to squeeze out more war-time production. Throughout the entire 1914-1919 period, men and women from Peterborough and the Peterborough area did their part—from the first enlisters in 1914, to those who died in Germany, England and elsewhere while waiting for demobilization in 1919, to those who suffered for the rest of their post-war lives.

Though the course of history has since shown that WW1 was a misguided and short-sighted struggle, the recognition it earned for Canada and for Canadians has been of lasting value. This SPARK Showcase Exhibit seeks to pay tribute
to the many thousands of innocent Canadians soldiers, nurses, and others on the home front as well as abroad–whose sacrifices made this possible. Through the use of Roy Studio and other portraits, the exhibit emphasizes the roles played and hardships faced by these individuals, in particular ones from our own community and region.

An overview of the war period as a whole will provide context. However, this exhibit does not dwell on the causes of war, or the detailed ebb and flow of fighting, or on the specifics of weapons development, or military tactics—all subjects dear to some hearts. Individual people from this area and elsewhere, especially the ordinary ones, provide much of the focus. The 1917 events are disproportionately represented, but this SPARK Showcase is meant to honour all those who participated and sacrificed during the Great War.

The exhibit draws heavily on materials of the Peterborough Museum and Archives (PMA), especially the Balsillie Collection of Roy Studio Images. This year again, SPARK is pleased to be using historical images. By supporting the digitization of archival materials, we once more are doing just a bit toward preserving Peterborough’s past and making it more accessible. The Showcase Committee appreciates the efforts of PMA archivist Mary Charles in locating and arranging for the scanning of Roy Studio glass-plate negatives. Some of the 100-year old images have held up better than others, but all are a window into the past and into the world of the WW1 participants.

To provide the broader context, the exhibit uses official war photographs from Library and Archives Canada, the Canadian War Museum, and Veterans Affairs Canada, which are now in the public domain. Other materials come, for example, from the Trent Valley Archives as well as other sources. Generally the contextual photos are smaller in size, so that the portraits are placed in a framework but not overshadowed.
The SPARK Showcase Committee would like to emphasize that this exhibit is not meant to be exhaustive, but aims to be a lead-up to more comprehensive and diverse explorations that we expect others will undertake in 2018, the anniversary of the war’s conclusion. We hope that exhibit visitors will draw on our materials and research hints and will themselves examine other, more detailed aspects of WW1. In this way, they too can acknowledge Canada’s transition from innocence to nationhood.

Exhibit Curated by the SPARK Showcase Exhibit Committee:

  • Garry Barker
  • Greg Burke
  • Andy Christopher
  • Jennie Versteeg

With Special Thanks To LLF Lawyers

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