Objects of memory
By Kate Butler
This Remembrance Day we mark the 100th anniversary of the second year of the First World War – a year punctuated by such momentous battles as Loos and Ypres, the first use of poison gas in the war and the first Zeppelin raids over Britain.
Just a few short decades ago, both world wars seemed so much more tangible to us than they do today – we all knew veterans and some might have even told us about their experiences.
Today, the number of veterans from these conflicts is dwindling, which raises the question of how we connect with this chapter of our history. The answer, I feel, lies in those objects and photos from the past that speak to us across the years.
In the collection of the Haliburton Highlands Museum, we have a Victory Medal that commemorates the end of, as the medal refers to it, the “Great War for Civilization.”
With over eight million men dead and over 21 million wounded around the globe, the First World War had been so horrific that no one thought an event like that could ever happen again ... and yet we know it did.
Another item from our collection that always speaks to me rather poignantly is an image of members of the 109th Battalion in Haliburton Village.
Sitting at the knee of one of the soldiers is a rather adorable dog.
I can imagine this honorary mascot providing well needed distraction for the men of the battalion as they made their way through training and prepared to go overseas.
Perhaps there were games of fetch in the fairgrounds or maybe some of the young men in the photo confided their fears about going to war to this young pup because they knew they’d find a sympathetic and non-judgmental ear.
A picture can indeed be worth a thousand words and there are so many stories of the individuals involved in these worldwide struggles that need to be preserved and passed from generation to generation.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed or even desensitized by the vast scope of these massive conflicts, but we need to recall the individual human narratives and emotions involved in order to connect with the history of our families, our communities and our country.
This Remembrance Day I encourage you to share a family story, a photo or an object imbued with memory so that we don’t simply remember one day of the year, but every day.
By Kate Butler
Haliburton Highlands Museum