Thursday, November 11, 2021

Museums and Remembrance Day - 2021 Edition

 Since 2010 I've been writing a contemplative post for Remembrance Day. Hard to believe it has been so long. This year what has struck me as the day grew closer and closer is just how much art and creativity is born out of hardship - the inspiration of grief. 

I have been seeing poems, drawings, and songs pop up in a variety of places and from a variety of sources. All of these artworks give insight into the creators' experiences, political and social opinions, family lives, and so much more. The art is the door to understanding other perspectives. 

Museum collections contain the photos and stories of those have served at home and abroad, with a special reverence towards our servicemen and women. It is common to see portraits and read interpretive text about these individuals, and to see a few items that relate to their wartime experiences. When we include their artworks, the complexities of conflict and grief come to light in incredibly personal ways. A quick search of NovaMuse shows that we have many and varied options. 

People grieve differently, and navigate the stages of grief in their own time. Adding the elements of conflict, separation from family, unknown timelines and daily uncertainties make grief even more difficult to process. But for certain people, these issues and emotions are processed through a creative outlet. Their creations give us so many opportunities to interpret war and conflict. From a poem that sheds light on tensions between conscripted and enlisted soldiers to depictions of battlefields to trench art that turned deadly ammunition into household decorations, sharing these artworks can be a powerful invitation to our communities to explore human nature. It can also be an opportunity for people to explore their own grief by connecting with the personal stories and creativity of others. 

Providing people with opportunities to reflect and process their grief, and channel this grief in creative ways is an amazing public service. When this grief is intergenerational, giving space for people to share family stories and create art inspired by these stories can be incredibly healing. It honours those that came before us and gives people a chance to process thoughts and feelings that have been passed down from previous generations.

Museums offer these learning and healing opportunities in many different ways, but in my experience we don't always recognize their healing potential. Hosting a First World War song night, asking people to share photos and biographies of their family members who served, inviting a reenactment group to host an encampment on-site, partnering with the local school to display students' Remembrance Day poetry and art projects...all of these activities offer opportunities to better understand and connect with history and process grief. One of the opportunities we offer is through NovaMuseEd, where educators can use a learning activity about trench art to encourage students to ponder the intersection of conflict and culture. 

The inspiration of grief is evident throughout our collections, especially when we look at items linked to war and conflict. The individuality and uniqueness of these creative items served a purpose when they were made, and they continue to serve a purpose now. All that we need to do is look to them for our own inspiration.

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