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Colourized photos from WWI now on display at Canadian War Museum

Colourized image of a Canadian messenger carrying his bicycle through mud in August 1917. (photo via Library and Archives Canada – PA-001581)

(Via Canadian War Museum)

As the First World War continues to fade into the past, the conflict and its impact have been brought vividly to life with The Great War in Colour – A New Look at Canada’s First World War Effort, 1914–1918. This travelling display from the Vimy Foundation uses colourized archival photographs to highlight life on the front lines and on the home front, as well as wartime industries, the contributions of women, and advances in medical and communications technologies during a transformative period in Canadian history.

“Colourized photographs are a powerful way to bring us closer to the past, by making long-ago events seem more immediate and familiar,” said James Whitham, Acting Director General of the Canadian War Museum. “From the deep-blue uniform of a Voluntary Aid Detachment driver posing next to her ambulance, to the brown mud of the trenches — these poignant images in full colour give us a clearer understanding of what the war looked like to the people who lived it.”

The Great War in Colour is organized and circulated by the Vimy Foundation as part of its First World War in Colour project, which features 150 digitally colourized images from the collections of Library and Archives Canada and local archives across the country. This initiative, supported by the Department of Canadian Heritage, was launched to commemorate both the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, and the 150th anniversary of Canada’s Confederation.

“Many Canadians today see the First World War through a series of faded black-and-white photos, disconnected from their modern reality,” said Jeremy Diamond, Executive Director of the Vimy Foundation. “Colourizing these events brings a new focus to our understanding and appreciation of Canada during the First World War. These photographs offer a fresh look at Canada’s role during the conflict, and we are confident that they will resonate with all Canadians, but especially youth, as they attempt to connect to the stories of war a century later.”

The Vimy Foundation, a registered charity founded in 2006, is dedicated to preserving and promoting Canada’s First World War legacy, as symbolized in the victory at Vimy Ridge in April 1917 — a milestone that helped Canada earn its place on the world stage.

The Great War in Colour – A New Look at Canada’s First World War Effort, 1914–1918 will be presented at the Canadian War Museum from December 10, 2018 to January 3, 2019, as part of the Museum’s multi-year programming commemorating the First World War Centenary. The exhibition’s cross-Canada tour also includes stops in Toronto, Halifax, Winnipeg, Calgary and Cobourg.