25 March 2007

Afghanistan: A Glimpse of War

I had an opportunity today, fortunate that I am to live in Ottawa (you don't hear that phrase too often), to visit the Canadian War Museum. The main purpose of my visit was to take a look at the new "Afghanistan: A Glimpse of War" exhibit. As the CWM's brochure puts it: "This powerful exhibition goes beyond the headlines to capture Canada's participation in the international security mission in Afghanistan. Detailing Canada's efforts to help Afghans rebuild a country shattered by years of war, this exhibition uncovers personal stories drawn from the chaos of battle and the struggle for peace."

The exhibition was interesting, although not particularly informative for me. In the CWM's defence on that count - I'm sure I'm not their target audience, i.e. someone keeping up with Canadian Forces' operations in Afghanistan as much as time will allow. The exhibition does a good job of outlining Canada's involvement in Afghanistan since 9/11 and would, therefore, be excellent for the visitor who is interested, but hasn't kept up with the news on Canadian activities there.

It is artefact minimal, in the sense that there isn't a lot on display aside from newspaper pages, video clips, and graphic artwork. That is partly a reflection, in my opinion, of modern museum style (a style that goes way beyond the CWM), and undoubtedly a reflection of the difficulty in coming up with many items from a conflict so recent (and ongoing). That said, it was very interesting to see the .50 calibre sniper rifle Canadian troops are currently using to such great effect (it's a very impressive piece of kit) and a destroyed G-Wagen.

All in all, a very interesting display, and one well worth seeing.

A few of the events coming up at the Canadian War Museum in April and May include:

Terry Copp speaking on "The Art of Command", "...the challenges faced in 1944-45 by Lieutenant-General Guy Simonds, best known for his role in the liberation of Northwest Europe", at 7.00 p.m. on April 26 in the Barney Danson Theatre;

A performance of "No Man's Land: On July 1, 1916, a generation of Newfoundland's best and brightest was virtually wiped out at the battle of Beaumont Hamel. Witness this moving play and discover why this July morning will never be forgotten", at 8.00 p.m. on both April 27 and 28 in the Barney Danson Theatre;

Mark Ward speaking on "Honouring an Unlucky Lady: HMCS Athabaskan", recounting his 2003 scuba dive "in the English Channel to his grandfather's submerged gravesite. He will discuss the mysterious Second World War sinking of Canada's HMCS Athabaskan", at 7.00 p.m. on May 10 in the Barney Danson Theatre; and

Stephen Thorne speaking on "War Stories from Afghanistan", discussing how he "photographed Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan from 2002 to 2004. His work reveals his encounters with human stories of loss, conflict and reconstruction in Canada's most recent chapter of military history", at 7.00 p.m. on May 24 in the Barney Danson Theatre.

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