Vimy Ridge remembered through artifacts, Red Deer Museum hosts special guest speaker

Just a week away from the 100th anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge, Red Deer’s Museum and Art Gallery brought in a special guest presenter.

Anthony Worman, military and political curator at the Royal Alberta Museum, spoke to more than 35 people about the historic battle and its significance within Canadian history.

“There’s great debate over whether is Vimy Ridge the birthplace of Canada as a nation or is it that stepping stone in our nation,” said Worman. “It’s a very important event for us. There is a lot of national symbolism there. It’s where we put our overseas memorial.”

Worman’s presentation was not an elaborate, blow-by-blow, breakdown of the battle, instead he showed the group some of the objects that remain from the 1917 engagement.

“If you want to read a book, I can tell you about a book,” said Worman. “But material culture and how we use that for memory. I have the show of the show and tell. I can show you the stuff and talk about the stuff, rather than the history from a book.

“We use the objects to talk about the history so it’s not just an academic history.”

To keep the objects preserved, Worman didn’t travel with them. But he used Power Point and images to show the objects.

From Red Deer, about 40 men were involved in the battle, 12 died. One of the images Worman showed was of a cap badge from a man who grew up in Lacombe and joined up with the 151st battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. It was one of the few items of Vimy he scrounged up from the Royal Alberta Museum. Worman said he was a sniper and he fought at Vimy.

“Because Vimy has impacted our memory so much, when we talk about Vimy we think about certain things,” said Worman. “But we don’t necessarily think about the artifacts. We think about nationhood, nation building, the monument and the battle. Artifacts are tangible, they can show you that stuff.

“We’re 100 years later, every man that participated at Vimy is gone. What remains is an artifact. That, to me, makes Vimy real. We can have things that can evoke the concepts of Vimy and the men from Vimy.”

Next Sunday, the museum will have another Vimy Ridge presentation. This time Sigmund Brouwer in to give a multimedia presentation about his book Innocent Heroes. It tells the stories of animals in the First World War and the role they played.

The event takes place from 12 to 4 p.m. at the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery, 4525 47A Ave.

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