Last week, renowned Sociologist, speaker, and CEO of the Vanier Institute of the Family Nora Spinks held a lecture with my second year Sociology class at UOttawa. She spoke of a recent event at the Vanier Institute where a time capsule was dug up which had been compiled by a group of Sociologists one hundred years ago. In this capsule, they expressed some concerns which faced the families of their time which they hoped to be solved in a hundred years, and posed three questions which they hoped to be answered. For their concerns, they worried that young people would not be able to improve beyond the living standards of their parents, that young people would be safe and secure in their families, and that people could find meaningful work for meaningful pay without affecting family time. What is startling about these concerns is that none of them has been resolved, and they are still highly prevalent problems in the families of today.
For their three questions, the Sociologists asked: Have you discovered and explored the North Pole? Have you perfected the flying machine? And, have you developed the ability to communicate with family members who are far away? Clearly, we have done all of these things and more since 1914. Not only have we perfected the flying machine, but it is now a major form of everyday transportation. We have the ability to communicate across long distances even face-to-face, which would be a real shock and fascination for the Sociologists.
If we were to really look into it, the First World War is a major contributing factor to these advancements, especially in the case of the flying machine. The arms race against Germany caused Great Britain to develop planes that could fly faster and for longer, naval vessels that could withstand the demands of time, combat and transportation in foreign waters, and sophisticated telegraph systems to allow communications along the lines. While a major, terrible loss occurred as a result of the Great War, there were significant technological gains which have a legacy in everyday life a century later.
I was able to further explore the legacy of the First World War when I interviewed Dr Andrew Burtch, acting director of research at the Canadian War Museum, as part of my research position with the UOttawa Central and Eastern European Studies Research Group. He said that this year of recognition for the hundredth anniversary is less about commemoration, and more concerned with acknowledging the history. The museum itself, for example, has focused on highlighting different aspects of the war throughout the year. For instance, they had an exhibit featuring wartime art by Canadian artist A.Y. Jackson and German artist Otto Dix, which showed the different artistic interpretations of the wartime experience. They also launched a new exhibit this week which focuses on the internment of Ukrainian Canadians during the war, a topic which has only recently been explored. In the years to come, they plan to continue these spotlight events, which will allow people to experience all aspects of the Great War, such as the war in the air and individual battles.
"[The First World War is] one of the most written-about subjects of all time", said Dr Burtch. "It's the First World War internationally... the United States has the Civil War... This is a defining conflict." In terms of establishing our identity as a new nation, as well as creating groundbreaking technological advances, this war directly paved the way for a great many modern concepts. We should be keeping them in mind as we honour it's hundredth anniversary.
Thanks for reading,
-What would you write in your time capsule? What questions would you like to have answered?
-If you've ever been to the Canadian War Museum, I'd love to hear about your visit! Join the conversation!