Canada’s participation in the First World War left an unprecedented mark on the nation’s sociopolitical landscape and deeply affected the citizens of the time, as 67,000 lives were lost in battle and the country’s own identity was called into question. Terry Copp, professor emeritus at Wilfrid Laurier University, is a military historian working to bring details of this tumultuous time into focus—in particular, the ways wartime changed the diverse Canadian city of Montreal. Now, to mark the 100-year anniversary of the end of the First World War, Copp has curated a selection of photos from his research to be displayed in an outdoor exhibition entitled Montréal 14-18, presented by Château Ramezay on the streets of the city itself.
Because of Montreal’s divided anglophone and francophone populations, as well as its segregated religious communities, the city is a prime study of the national tensions that were exacerbated by international conflict. Copp’s research lead him to Montreal’s public records, archival photographs, and military documents, as well as popular newspapers of the time, as the city’s journalists helped to shed light on Canadian perspectives: political concerns, economic realities, and the overall anxieties and hopes of a country at war.
In partnership with his research assistant, Laurier graduate student Alexander Maavara, Copp published this extensive research as en e-book, entitled Montreal at War: 1914-1918. The ongoing digital project is hosted on a website created specifically to showcase the information he and his team have gathered, alongside an array of photographs, maps, and illustrated ads and posters.
From the outset, Montreal at War: 1914-1918 was intended to be an interactive experience. Online, readers can comment and add details to the website, and find themselves in a historical rabbit-hole through the site’s links to articles, theses, and commentary websites. The exhibition at Château Ramezay extends this notion, as visitors are invited to wander through a series of street-side photographs and to experience these windows into the city’s past within the context of Montreal’s present.
The exhibition Montréal 14-18 is on display until November 18, 2018 at Château Ramezay.
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