‘It’s about lives and homes and people’
London project maps the homes where soldiers killed in the First World War lived
Maj. Victor John Kent lived in a two-storey house with a beautiful view of Victoria Park.
But Kent never returned to the family home at 270 Central Ave. after enlisting in the First World War in 1915. He was killed three years later in St. Quentin, France.
The London soldier’s downtown home is one of 95 addresses featured in a new virtual exhibit that maps local casualties from the fouryear conflict.
The project, Topography of Grief: Mapping Great War Dead in London, explores the collective memory and grief following the First World War by highlighting families’ personal losses.
“This reminds us that loss is not just about names on memorial plaques. It’s about lives and homes and people,” said Western University history professor Jonathan Vance, who was the guest speaker at exhibit’s official launch Wednesday.
About two dozen people attended the launch at the Royal Canadian Regiment Museum, where they listened to speakers involved in the project and viewed a map pinpointing where the deceased London soldiers had lived.
For the online map, users can click on the addresses to pull up information about each deceased solider, including their name, address, rank, when they enlisted, and when and where they died.
“The map is a powerful tool, linking people, stories and places,” Vance said of the interactive feature.
Though researchers identified 343 addresses of next of kin whose family members were killed in action or declared missing between 1914 and 1921, only 95 addresses were selected for the project.
The virtual exhibit is a collaboration between the Royal Canadian Regiment Museum, Western’s public history graduate program and the Virtual Museum of Canada. It includes a written history of wartime London — a city with a population of 55,000 — as well as archival photographs and images of other artifacts.
Graduate students worked on archival research, wrote the text for the website and visited the homes included on the map.
“My students were lucky enough to work on a real world project,” said Michelle Hamilton, director of Western’s public history program.
“It really provided a lot of skills for our students.”
Megan Richardson, director of the Virtual Museum Canada, praised the exhibit for showing the “human impact” of the war on Canadian communities like London.
“It really serves as an important educational tool and poignant reminder,” she said. — The London Free Press
Noam and Beryl Chernick examine a map Wednesday depicting where soldiers from London killed in the First Word War lived. The map is part of a new exhibit at the Royal Canadian Regiment Museum called Topography of Grief.