“The Memory Project: Stories of the Second World War” by Andrew Theobald

The Memory Project: Stories of the Second World War is a bilingual initiative of The Historica-Dominion Institute, a national charitable organization headquartered in Toronto, with offices in Edmonton and Ottawa. The Institute was created through the merger, in September 2009, of the Historica Foundation and the Dominion Institute and is the largest independent body dedicated to Canadian history, identity, and citizenship. The project is made possible with generous funding from the Department of Canadian Heritage.

The Memory Project provides every living Second World War veteran in Canada with the opportunity to share his or her memories through oral interviews and digital artifacts and memorabilia displayed on the website www.thememoryproject.com

In the fifteen months since the project’s inception, The Memory Project has amassed close to 2,000 interviews and collected nearly 8,000 artifacts. Currently, over 1,200 interviews and accompanying artifacts are available on the website.

Each website profile features an edited interview clip, generally five to ten minutes long, and displays up to five artifacts. The ability to hear a veteran speaking in his or her voice and the artifacts, often photos taken by veterans themselves, provide compelling personal impressions of the conflict (excellent examples of Memory Project interviews may also be consulted in We Were Freedom: Canadian Stories of the Second World War, recently published by Key Porter Books). Demographic realities mean that officers are underrepresented and female veterans overrepresented on the website. However, those interested in the stories of army privates, lower deck sailors, and aircraftwomen – including many veterans who enlisted aged 18 or younger – will find fascinating material.

Moreover, the project is focused on the diversity of the Canadian experience and visitors will find all branches of service, military occupations, regions, languages, and social classes represented. Unlike other oral history projects, participants include veterans of the Canadian services or those who are now Canadian citizens, regardless of nationality during the conflict.

Interviews will continue until March 2011 and veterans may participate by recording their stories over the telephone and couriering their memorabilia to the project’s national office in Toronto at the expense of The Historica-Dominion Institute.

The Memory Project: Stories of the Second World War is committed to creating a legacy that reflects the Canadian experience. It is an organic project that relies on communal interest and feedback to ensure continual improvement. The engagement and support of www.canadianmilitaryhistory.ca readers would be most welcome.

Andrew Theobald is is a Research and Collections Officer with The Memory Project: Stories of the Second World War and a Research Associate of the LCMSDS

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