‘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.


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