Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, Ontario

An article about the International Speaker Series with the Canadian War Museum

Posted on on 02 December 2014
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Centenary News writer, Christopher Harvie, spoke with Dr Andrew Burtch, Acting Director of Research for the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa to discuss the museum's International Speaker Series, an initiative giving different perspectives to the history of the First World War. 

“World at War” International Speaker Series

Earlier this week, I spoke over the telephone with Dr Andrew Burtch, Acting Director of Research for the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. To mark the centenary over the next four years, the War Museum’s “World at War” International Speaker Series has planned several events which aim to deliver different perspectives on the war.

Varying Program Formats with Esteemed Scholars

The Museum’s website has this description: “The World at War – International Speaker Series is an annual series of academic events, presented by the Canadian War Museum, to mark the centenary of the First World War. The events, presented in a variety of formats, provide an opportunity for the public to learn from leading Canadian and international experts about the war’s national and global reach, its cost and its legacies.”  Incorporating lectures, panel discussions and debates, the Series intends to “expand horizons of Canadian understanding of the First World War” according to Dr Burtch.

Dr Burtch hopes that the upcoming events will cover subjects both familiar and defining to a Canadian audience, but also present topics of an international, and perhaps, less well known appeal.

This initiative makes up just one part of the Museum’s extensive plans for observing the centenary through to 2018. 

The Series, Dr Burtch tells me, “started earlier this year in response to similar programs at sister institutions,” such as the Imperial War Museum in London and the Australian War Memorial in Campbell, ACT in order to illustrate “the Canadian experience and those from around the world” of the Great War. 

Upcoming Events

The next event, scheduled for 26 February 2015, is a debate upon the necessity of conscription in Canada during the latter half of WWI.  A contentious issue at the time, it divides historical opinion still. Taking the ‘pro’ position is Professor J.L. Granatstein, who will base his position on the argument of “Yes! Conscription was militarily necessary to support the operations of the Canadian Corps during a crucial period of fighting.”  Professor Granatstein's latest work, “The Greatest Victory: Canada’s One Hundred Days, 1918”, is published by Oxford University Press.

Opposing, with the contrary argument “No! Conscription was the result of chaotic recruiting policies and reckless promises” is University of Ottawa Professor Serge Durflinger. An Associate Professor in the History Department at the University of Ottawa, he is the author of Fighting from Home: The Second World War in Verdun, Quebec and Veterans with a Vision: Canada’s War Blinded in Peace and War. His research interests include the Canadian home front during both world wars and veterans’ civil re-establishment.

Dr Burtch told me he feels it’s important to look at the war in a broad aspect, and will include events in the Series to examine the war on other fronts.  “ANZAC Day is a big deal in Ottawa,” he says, due to a large Australian and New Zeland expatriate community in Canada’s capital. To that end, marking the 100th anniversary of the battle of Gallipoli, the Canadian War Museum will bring together an international panel of historians to present their perspectives on this battle and its legacy across three countries. The panel will include Dr Peter Pedersen, consultant historian for the Australian government’s commemorative projects on the Australian battlefields of the Western Front and retired Assistant Director for the Australian War Memorial; Dr Katie Pickles, Associate Professor of History, University of Canterbury, New Zealand; and Dr.Yigit Akin, Assistant Professor, Tulane University.  The panel will be held on 23 April 2015 to mark the anniversary of the Gallipoli Campaign.

Future Opportunities for New Perspectives & Deeper Understanding

Beyond the Series itself, Dr Burtch told me he was enthusiastic about making use of similar events in co-ordination with exhibits and other programs associated with the museum. With this particular Series being continued throughout the centenary, there will be abundant opportunities for many voices and perspectives (perhaps even my own) to be shared. 

For more information on the next event in the International Speaker Series, click here

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons