I have to be honest, as an American, when I think of Canada, the contributions of their military to the global peace effort aren’t the first thing that comes to mind. In the US, we do a pretty good job of honoring our soldiers and highlighting their acts of valiance, but when you travel over the border and visit our Neighbors to the North it’s a bit of a different story. I mean, I always knew that Canada had an active standing military, I just didn’t know all that much about them or their rich history. All that changed however, after we spent our day at the Military Museums in Calgary, AB.
The Military Museums is western Canada’s largest museum dedicated to military history, art and education. Interestingly the facility is actually a collection of 8 separately curated regimental museums located under one roof. You see, much like their active service, their military museum is divided up and managed by individual regiments and branches of service. The Military Museums feature much more than just the usual guns and medals though, as their mission is more than just historical preservation. The museum has a well curated collection of arts that depict the social impact of military conflict.
Upon entering the museum, you are greeted with one of the most poignant pieces in the whole facility.
Made up of 240 separate images, the 20 by 12 Mural of Honor features a look into individual points of Canada’s military history from the War of 1812 to the present. The museum features an interactive display that allows you to learn the story behind each tile, or you can experience it on the web from the comfort of your own home.
As we went through each of the individual regiment’s museum, we learned about how they were formed and what key campaigns they served in. What made it so fascinating to me was the idea that each regiment was formed on it’s own by private funding. Because of this, each regiment had their unique names and histories that have been preserved over the years. The museums all feature unique artifacts donated by former regimental members and their families that paint their vivid past.
Interestingly, they all also feature incredibly detailed re-enactment scenes that allow you to get a feel for what soldiers went through in each conflict.
One of the most fascinating displays was this scale reproduction that depicts the realities of the trench warfare of WWII.
The Military Museums don’t only feature Alberta’s Army Regiments. There is also a section that is curated by the Air Force as well as the Navy. One of my favorite parts of the Air Force’s display was this collection of old and reproduction artwork from the sides of aircraft.
Ironically, the Naval Museum featured quite a few aircraft, in addition to some components of different battleships and destroyers. Put together they gave you a pretty powerful idea of what life in the Canadian Navy is really all about.
In addition to housing pieces of Alberta’s military history, the Military Museums is also home to a rather large library and archives curated by the University of Calgary, as well as The Founders Gallery. The Gallery was definitely one of the unexpected highlights of our visit as it featured a collection of art designed to foster an understanding of the military experience through art.
Overall I felt as if the Military Museums of Calgary was a rather enriching way to spend a day, and is definitely worth a visit for both travelers and local Albertan’s. It did a really great job of engaging me as a visitor and making me feel for the plight of the armed forces, as opposed to merely housing a collection of cold artifacts.
Details for the Military Museums of Calgary
4520 Crowchild Trail, SW