Trench Life: A Survival Guide

The Canadian War Museum (CWM) today opened a new exhibition, Trench Life: A Survival Guide. The exhibition examines how, in the harsh world of First World War trenches, Canadian soldiers created and relied upon a distinct culture to make sense of their wartime experiences and cope with the strain of unending death and destruction.

Trench Life explores the history of the First World War in its most personal dimension: the words, images, art, and songs created by front line soldiers.

“Ninety years after the end of the First World War, it is important to remember that life in the trenches was more than just fighting and dying. Soldiers created a vibrant culture as a shield against the strain of war. ” stated Mark O’Neill, the War Museum’s Director General.

The exhibition complements the Museum’s permanent exhibition on the First World War by offering a different perspective on the conflict. It allows visitors to experience how soldiers coped with the reality of life in the trenches.

Trench Life offers a unique and engaging view of Canada in the First World War. It presents the lived experience of Canadian frontline soldiers, as manifested through the cultural products they created. While serving on the Western Front, Canadian soldiers forged a culture that drew upon their pre-war civilian identity, but was updated and adapted to meet the reality of life during wartime. Songs, poetry, cartoons, newspapers, theatre, and trench art helped soldiers find meaning in their war experience and cope with the strains of combat service. The exhibition uses a multi-sensory approach to highlight the soldiers’ environment and culture.

A wide range of family activities will be offered daily in the exhibition space. Visitors of all ages can create maple leaf badges, trench graffiti, and personalized identification tags. A new activity will be presented weekly throughout the summer.

Trench Life: A Survival Guide is the second special exhibition created in its entirety by the Canadian War Museum since opening its new building in 2005; the first, Afghanistan: A Glimpse of War, was recognized with the Award of Outstanding Achievement in Exhibitions by the Canadian Museums Association earlier this spring.

The Canadian War Museum is Canada’s national museum of military history. It acquires and maintains artifacts, and disseminates knowledge through research, exhibitions, and public programs. The Museum is also a venue and facilitator for the informed discussion of military affairs, past and present. Its mission is to promote public understanding of Canada’s military history in its personal, national, and international dimensions. -- www.civilization.ca

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