Pre­serv­ing Lo­cal War His­tory


The Peterborough Examiner - - Lest We Forget - By El­iz­a­beth Bower-Gordon

As a Trent Univer­sity his­tory pro­fes­sor, Daniel Travers un­der­stands the im­por­tance of pre­serv­ing lo­cal his­tory but the mat­ter has be­come even more press­ing af­ter the death of the last First World War vet­eran. “The First World War has passed out of liv­ing mem­ory,” Travers says. “It is so im­por­tant to keep alive the mem­o­ries and sto­ries of those who served.” So last year, Travers started a project with his third-year his­tory stu­dents to re­search Peter­bor­ough’s peo­ple, or­ga­ni­za­tions and ar­ti­facts re­lated to the Great War. The idea has turned into an on­line mu­seum — found at­ter­bor­ough­ww1­mu­ — that cur­rently of­fers the pub­lic 18 ‘ex­hibits’ in­clud­ing photos and in­for­ma­tion about lo­cal sol­diers, nurses and or­ga­ni­za­tions such as Gen­eral Elec­tric. “Our in­spi­ra­tion was to cap­ture an es­sen­tial part of Peter­bor­ough’s her­itage and his­tory,” Travers says. The re­search for the mu­seum is a class as­sign­ment. Last year, 53 stu­dents got in groups to re­search any­thing lo­cal re­lated to the First World War. They re­searched top­ics such as Pte. An­thony Skar­rizi — the youngest Peter­bor­ough sol­dier to die fight­ing for the Al­lies at age 16 — or or­ga­ni­za­tions such as the lo­cal chap­ters of The Im­pe­rial Or­der of the Daugh­ters of Em­pire, which fundraised for the war ef­fort, pro­vided com­forts to sol­diers and sup­ported the fam­i­lies left be­hind. To do this, he says they used widely avail­able on­line sources, such as Vet­er­ans Af­fairs and Li­brary and Ar­chives Canada, and also worked lo­cally with the Trent Univer­sity ar­chives, the Peter­bor­ough Mu­seum and Ar­chives and the Trent Val­ley Ar­chives (TVA). Past Peter­bor­ough le­gion pres­i­dent Dave Edger­ton and lo­cal TVA his­to­rian Don Down pro­vided tours of the Cit­i­zen’s War Memo­rial, the Peter­bor­ough Ar­moury and Lit­tle Lake Ceme­tery. The in­ter­est­ing thing about Peter­bor­ough, Travers says, is that if stu­dents dis­cov­ered an ex­act ad­dress where a sol­dier had lived, many times that home is still stand­ing and the stu­dents could go take photos for the ex­hibit. Then stu­dents wrote re­ports of up to 2,000 words, which Travers edited. Eigh­teen ex­hibits have been up­loaded and about 18 more are ex­pected to be added later this month. Travers says he hopes this project will be on­go­ing for many years. “Peter­bor­ough has such strong con­nec­tions to the First World War and there is a huge range of top­ics we could re­search,” he says. “There are hun­dreds of top­ics and hun­dreds of in­di­vid­u­als.”

This screen­shot from the Trent Univer­sity on­line mu­seum for the First World War (­ter­bor­ough­ww1­mu­ shows four Peter­bor­ough ‘ex­hibits’ that were re­searched by Trent stu­dents. When you click on the images, you can learn more about the lo­cal per­son, or or­ga­ni­za­tion, and how they sup­ported the war. Photo cour­tesy of Trent Univer­sity

Daniel Travers

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