On March 1, the Juno Beach Centre inaugurated two new temporary exhibitions: “Vimy 1917 : A Canadian Battle in France”, in the lobby, and “From Vimy to Juno: Remembering Canadians in France”, presented in the temporary exhibition room. Accompanying education programs and a new From Vimy to Juno web app were also announced.
VIPs in attendance included François Saint-Pierre Allaire, head of the exhibit design firm Merlicht of Montréal, which was responsible for the realization of the exhibition; and from start-up Twelve Solutions, out of Caen, responsible for the development of the new web app Chief of Cultural Projects and Museology consultant Anne Seignot-Renouard.
Mr Pierre Guimond, Minister Counsellor at the Embassy of Canada in Paris; Mr Jean-François Duterte (DIRECCTE); and Mr Jean-Marie BERNARD, from the Normandy Region all gave remarks at the opening. The French government and the Region of Normandy both graciously provided financial support to aid in the development of the exhibits and the web app.
We were also honoured to have in attendance Yves Germain, Greg Kenney (Director General of the Canadian Vimy Memorial); Caroline Dromaguet of the Canadian War Museum; Liz Sweet from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission; Carl Liversage and William Moody; representatives of Credit Agricole; Sylvie Drouet from DIRECCTE; Sandrine Fanget, from Region of Normandy Tourism; Paul Chandelier; and Carl Joly, Director of CDT Calvados.
A final thank to the many business owners of the Juno sector, other museum professionals, and representatives of the families of veterans featured in the exhibitions who came out to the launch. We are very grateful for your continued support for our work.
In preparation for the centenary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, the Juno Beach Centre has worked for the past 2 years to create these commemorative and historical exhibitions. The exhibition, “Vimy 1917: a Canadian Battle in France,” presented in the Hall of the Juno Beach Centre and developed in partnership with the Canadian War Museum, tells the story of the Battle of Vimy Ridge on April 9th, 1917.
The new temporary exhibition “From Vimy to Juno: Remembering Canadians in France,” is a memorial exhibition about how Canadians remember their war dead from both world wars, and how the French have contributed and continue to contribute to preserving this memory.
It is necessary to remind ourselves of the current context within which we inaugurate these exhibitions and what our commemorative, pedagogical and tourism challenges are at the Juno Beach Centre, as a museum that – thanks to its dual French and Canadian culture and identity – greatly contributes to the attraction of Juno Beach and the Normandy region.
I would like to conclude by thanking you for joining us tonight and by inviting you to become the ambassadors of this exhibition and convincing as many as possible to come and experience it. I would also like to thank the entire Juno Beach Centre team for the work carried out to complete these two exhibitions.
Juno Beach Centre director
This exhibition is rooted in a question we have heard time and time again :
“What are we going to do when all the veterans are gone? For those of us who have not experienced these wars, will we have the means to carry their legacy without their help?
It is also rooted in this fact:
Over 52, 000 Canadians who have lost their lives as a result of the both world wars rest in peace in France. It is in this country that the by far greatest number of Canadians are buried outside of Canada.
If were to reverse the roles and imagine that France had fought the world war on Canadian soil, with proportionate adjustments for population and enlistment rates, it would mean that over 250,000 French soldiers would rest in Canada today.
For a young nation like Canada, its implication in France during the two world wars is an affirmation of its existence, character, and capacities.
Therefore France is today a pilgrimage destination for thousands of Canadians. There is literally a part of us that rests here, in your soil.
For thousands of Canadian and French families today, this historical and commemorative bond is very real. For many others however, it is becoming less acknowledged.
It is from these observations that we have retraced the history of the construction of the memory of Canadians in France, with regard for it its strength but also its fragility.
At the heart of the exhibition runs a river of poppies, over 52,000 of them. The river runs towards the centre of the space, where there lies a piece of stone from the monument at Vimy that pre-dates its 2005-2007 renovations.
The graphically mounted surfaces that line the exterior walls of the space present the historical elements of this memory chronologically, after the wars and today.
The education program also addresses these same concerns but using an approach conceived specifically for today’s youth. The stories of 4 families – 3 Canadians and 1 French – are presented to us through the voices of descendants of soldiers who experienced the world wars.
These contemporary narrators and family ambassadors – Alyssa, Kevin, Jonah, Laine, Arlene – will guide you through their family history. Thanks to their presence in the exhibition, our visitors can connect to real families’ stories.
We also built learning tools that fit within the French school programs that mandates teachers to find opportunities to connect their students to the memories of other countries embedded into the centenary of the First World War in France and to make connect it to the Second World War and the development of the European Union.
To accomplish this, we developed digital apps and the developers we worked with to create these innovative tools will be available to give you an overview of the version we created for families.
The app designed for secondary school students has been specifically built to generate an interaction between JBC guides and students in comparing and contrasting the experiences of the four families found in the exhibition. This digital tool is designed to allow guides to become a sort of “historical referee” while using the historical content. The app is also built to make sure that teens work together as teams as opposed to individually.
The themes presented are:
- The notion of voluntary service and conscription;
- Life at the Front ;
- The impact of war on civilians and families;
- The geographical distance between France and Canada;
- The recognition of veterans’ service and their access to rights and benefits.
These are the ingredients we decided to put together so that we could demonstrate how the vitality of the transmission of this memory depends on an affinity between French and Canadians. Our bond is strengthened when this memory can be shared.
If we commemorate together, as opposed to separately, the endeavor becomes alive. For this bond to be continued, it must first and foremost be understood and felt.
It is with this mind that we wanted to show our common past to the French and Canadians of today in order to be able to offer it to the French and Canadian people of tomorrow.
Marie Eve Vaillancourt, Juno Beach Centre History Department Manager