Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Visiting the Canadian War Museum

My weekend Ottawa trip also included my first visit to the Canadian War Museum. I really enjoyed my visit, even though it was rushed, and I learned a lot, but there was something that I found consistently problematic from exhibit to exhibit.

While one of the "big ideas" conveyed throughout the museum was the significant cost of war. What I found interesting was that this wasn't balanced with much detailed description on the causes of each war and really detracted from the overall effectiveness of the exhibits. The temporary exhibit is currently on the war in Afghanistan, which had - from what I saw - the largest amount of exhibit space devoted to the reason for the war, as it dealt with the terrorist attacks of September 11th before dealing with the role of Canada in Afghanistan. [The exhibit includes a military jeep damaged by an improvised explosive device: right]

While I understand that exploring the deep roots of the causation of wars is both complex and would require a lot of space, it seems overly simplistic not to discuss much of Afghanistan's history before 2001; more disappointingly was the even smaller discussion of the causes of the first and second World Wars which, if it was more than a sentence or two, I didn't find. In the end, this situation meant that the museum's message that is being conveyed is that war is costly and also pointless.

I did enjoy my visit, but my other disappointment was the treatment of the air war. My grandfather's brother flew with 6 Group in Bomber Command before being shot down and killed over Berlin, and I was looking forward to exhibit material on the subject. I was surprised that there was very little discussion of it at all, and while I realize that the role of Bomber Command is controversial, the best way of dealing with doesn't seem like ignoring it - this send a message that 6 Group's contribution was not only of little importance, but also that we should be ashamed of it. [Above: this cartoon story of a WW1 pilot's role in the war I found out of place - it was unlike the rest of the exhibit in glorifying a pilot like a comic book superhero]

1 comment:

Canadi-anna said...

Glad to read your post. I've been wondering how visitors react to the Museum (I've never been there myself).
I've written a couple of posts about the controversy with the Canadian Legion and the Museum's treatment of Bomber Command, but having never actually seen the display in person, I've been relying on news reports and Internet photos.
Your post has substantiated my concerns.