Unwritten Histories

The Unwritten Rules of History

A Guide to Online Resources for Teaching and Learning about WW1 in Canada

A war effort poster: “Salvage! Every Little Helps” / Sia R. Chilvers. Library and Archives Canada, e010696424; Acc. No. 1983-28-190 / CC by 2.0

A war effort poster: “Salvage! Every Little Helps” / Sia R. Chilvers. Library and Archives Canada, e010696424; Acc. No. 1983-28-190 / CC by 2.0

(Newly updated as of February 27, 2017!)

I’m actually rather surprised to find that no one’s really done this before. This collection started out as a Word document that I used for creating classroom activities for my survey classes. The one-page document has now grown to seventeen pages. Before anyone yells at me for leaving things out, I do want to warn you that this is not a comprehensive list.  I have tried to limit this list to resources that are available from verified sources, archives, museums, universities, and historical societies. There are a ton of personal websites by genealogists and military history enthusiasts that are great, but because I can’t verify their sources personally and because this list is aimed mostly at educators, I chose to leave them out.

Each link will be listed by title, then institution. I have included a short description of each link, and which sections will be of particular interest or use to educators.

Since this blog post is a bit of a monster, you can simply click on each one of those headings below to navigate to a specific section of this page. To return to the top of the page, click on the link that says “Back to the Top,” located at the bottom of each section. Here’s how the blog post is arranged:

 

* One word of caution regarding the Thematic section. Due to the sparse nature of information about some of these topics, I have slightly compromised and included newspaper articles as sources in some cases.

 


Online Exhibitions

  • An Archival Look at World War I (Queen’s University Archives)
    • Though primarily designed for high school teachers, this website contains digitized photographs and documents from WW1 organized around several themes, including the homefront, technology, women, and warfare. Also included is a list of ideas for teachers on how to use the material presented on this website.
  • Canada and the First World War (LAC)
    • This (now archived) online exhibit is a curated collection of some of the materials held by LAC on WW1. There are three main sections: War Diaries, We Were there, and Did You Know That. Educators will be particularly interested in the second section, which contains first-hand accounts as well as archival documents for a number of different individuals who lived through the war, and the third section, which contains archival sources on a few different themes, including tragedies on the homefront, the recruitment and training of soldiers, the political and cultural impact of the war, and the service of “famous” Canadians.
  •  Canada and the First World War (Canadian War Museum)
    • This happens to be a personal favourite, and one I’ve used countless times in my courses. While the website does contain the traditional narrative, two sections are particularly useful: Objects and Photos and Teacher Resources. The first section, Objects and Photos, contains images of artefacts, digitized photos from WW1, archival documents, propaganda posters, and memorials, including some amazing artwork by soldiers on the front lines. These can all be used according to your own preferences, but the section on Teacher Resources contains lesson plans and photo and document packages. While these are mostly designed for high school, they can be adapted for university. I particularly like the package called A Soldier’s Life.
  • The First World War (Dictionary of Canadian Biography)
    • This website is part online exhibition, part collection of biographies. Each of the thematic sections contains a short introduction as well as a list of biographies of some of the men and women who served. Some of the most notable sections include: pacifism, ethnicity and race, demobilization and the veterans, and aboriginal soldiers. Warning: some of the images are VERY graphic, and contain images of dead bodies. This is particularly the case for the section called Death on the Battlefield.
  • First World War (The Loyal Edmonton Regiment Military Museum)
    • The website contains information about Canada’s military history in general, and the history of the regiment as well. Included is detailed information about WW1, including some really great primary sources. Themes include: Causes, Going to War, Canada’s Army, Battlefront 1915-16, Homefromt 1915-16, Battlefront 1917, Homefront 1917, Battlefront 1918, Life in the Trenches, Sea and Air, War and Sacrifice, War and Nationhood. You can also learn about the regiment’s history in WW1 here.
  • First World War (Veterans Affairs Canada)
    • This website was created specifically for educators. There are articles, images, interviews, audio, video, and so on. There are also lesson plans, and an interactive timeline. I would need a whole blog post to go over this website. I’m always a little leery of the information I get from Veterans Affairs, since they’re not exactly a neutral party, but if you keep that in mind, this can be a great resource. If nothing else, you can compare the history presented on this website to another one and talk about the language that’s used and the relationship between nationalism and memory.
      • There is also a small collection of diaries and letters, available here.
  • A City Goes to War (University of Victoria)
    • The University of Victoria received a grant [Editor’s note: Andrea originally wrote “granny” here] from Veterans Affairs Canada to develop this website, dedicated to documenting the impact of WW1 on Canadian cities. This is an ongoing project, and new materials are being added all the time. In addition to essays on the war itself in the Canada at War section, the website has so far created sections about the war in Victoria, Saanich, and Esquimalt in the Cities section. So far, Victoria has the most information, with only calls for submissions and community newspaper links for the other two cities. Also of interest is the section called Document Archives, which contains a curated collection of digitized primary sources that is searchable. There is also a Records of Service section, which contains a searchable database of records of service (as expected) and links to more information about specific individuals. There are also lesson plans for teachers as well as reading lists. I can’t wait to see how this website grows.
      • Some parts of this website are available in French.
  • Canada’s Great War Album (Canada’s History)
    • This online exhibit, created by the popular history magazine, Canada’s History, is a companion website to the book by the same name. It’s a bit difficult to navigate, but there are three main sections, two with essays, and one with videos. Both the About the Great War and Battle Fronts categories contain essays on a number of topics. There are also stories about individual soldiers at the bottom of the page and to the right, that are submitted by members of the public. Also at the bottom are links to short articles on more specific, but related topics. The final section, Videos, contains recordings of formal talks with historians on the subject and family history vignettes. There is even an interview with Tim Cook about his “History Idol,” Sir Arthur Currie. I wish there was a site map, because it is very hard to find things otherwise.
  • WW1: Love, Lives, and Remembrance from Ontario’s First World War (Archives of Ontario)
    • This website collects all of the Archives of Ontario’s online material relating to WW1. There are six online exhibits (Dear Sadie: Love, Lives, and Remembrance from Ontario’s First World War; War Artists from the First World War; Canadian Posters from the First World War; The Story of an Ontario Veteran – Excerpts from the John Mould Diaries; the Archives of Ontario Remember our Canadian War Heroes; and Preparing for Departure: Panoramic Photographs from the First World War). And when I say online exhibits in this case, there is one page of text accompanied by a small collection of digitized primary sources.
  • The Great War 1914-1918 (Postmedia/Canada.com)
    • This is a sort of online exhibit of curated content created by various newspapers owned by Postmedia. There is an absolutely enormous amount of material here, though, since these are newspaper articles, they aren’t necessarily the most reliable of sources. That said, this website does provide detailed information about topics that are not often discussed by other online exhibits, like the service of Chinese-Canadian soldiers. I mention this website mostly because I have links to some of these articles in the categories below. Still, it’s worth a browse. There are five main sections: Faces of War, Home Front, Battlefront, After the War, and Memory Project. The first four are simply collections of newspaper articles, while the last one is a collection of primary sources and artefacts submitted by the public.
  • Doing Our Bit (Great War Centenary Association)
  • Wartime Canada (University of Western Ontario)
    • Recommended by Kristine Alexander, this website contains scholarly essays, primary sources, and lesson plans relating to the Canadian experience in WW1 and WW2. This is a joint initiative directed by Jonathan Vance and Graham Broad, both from UWO, and WLU, UofO and UNB. Materials are organized into various categories, including: Eating, Fighting, Learning, Relaxing, Remembering, Returning, Shopping, Volunteering, Working, Worshipping, with each one further divided into sub-categories. The material covers both the battlefield and the Homefront. Their collection of ephemera is just amazing. Lesson plans can be found by clicking on the “Education” button at the top of the page, and then selecting one of five categories: War Effort, Government and Economy, Identity and Culture, Historical Inquiry, and Society. And again, there are further sub-categories with lessons of their own. Some sections are more fully developed, and the website is constantly adding new material. Most of the lesson plans are based on primary source analysis, and are easily adaptable for use in a university or college setting.

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Primary Sources

General/Various:

  • Soldiers of the First World War: 1914-1918 (LAC)
    • This is a website from LAC that serves as a guide to their holdings, both physical and digital, on WW1. One of the best parts for educators is that the personnel files of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) are being digitized (they’re up to “M” as of this writing), and these would be great tools for having your students create biographies of soldiers. In addition to the files from the CEF, the database will now also include records relating to Imperial War Service Gratuities recipients, Non-Permanent Active Militia, Rejected CEF volunteers, Royal Newfoundland Regiment, and Forestry Corps. LAC is still in the process of updating these files.
      • You can search the service files here.
  • The Canadian Wartime Experience: The Documentary Legacy of Canada at War (University of Manitoba Special Collections)
    • The University of Manitoba’s Archives and Special Collections has put together a website of digitized primary sources from their collection, along with teacher’s guides and lesson plans. Though the website itself is not specific to WW1, it does contain several fonds dealing with WW1 specifically, including: the Canadian Officers Training Corps fonds, John W. Dafoe fonds, Charles William Gordon fonds, William Harold Hunt fonds, Jellis Family fonds, Alice Millidge fonds, Pitbaldo Family fonds, Archie Polson fonds, Winnipeg Tribute fonds, and Vaughan David Watt fonds.
  • Veteran Stories: The First World War (The Memory Project)
    • The Memory Project, like the Canadian Letters and Images Project below, is a massive initiative to collect the stories of Canadians who experienced war. The information is organized into individual biographies. One of the best parts of the website is that many of the biographies contain audio recordings of veterans in question, with accompanying transcripts. Biographies can be browsed in alphabetical order, or you can opt to see the Editor’s Choice collection of material. You can also search by theme, including Bravery, Camaraderie, Canadian War Museum, Casualties, Civilian Life, Combat, Conscription, Death, Family, Homefront, Humour, PTSD, Reunion, and Training.
  • The Memory Project (The Globe and Mail)
    • This is something of a companion to the actual Memory Project mentioned above, commission by the Globe and Mail, the Dominion Institute, and the government of France. The public was asked to submit letters, images, and artefacts about the front lines of WW1. A panel of Canadian historians then went through and selected the ten most significant artefacts, and made them available on this website with accompanying text. Also available are 85 additional artefacts, that you can browse, though information about them is limited.
  • Discover 14-18 (Commonwealth War Graves Commission)
  • Victoria to Vimy (University of Victoria)
    • This is yet another online exhibit from the University of Victoria, this time looking at the First World War Collections at the UVic library. This exhibit contains digitized documents (letters, diaries, scrapbooks, photographs, postcards), oral histories, and artefacts. You can use these materials in three ways. First, clicking on the Discover tab on the left-hand menu allows you to browse the primary sources by type. Clicking on the Stories tab allows you to look at the primary sources by event, family, or individual. Finally, the Learn tab has lesson plan that is designed for grade 9 students. Again, it could be easily adapted for use in a university survey class.
  • World War One Collections (The Canadian Letters and Images Project)
    • This website is an absolutely massive collection of documents (letters, diaries, poems, etc.) and images relating to Canadians and war. The sheer scope is awe-inspiring. One of the largest collections is related to materials from WW1, organized by individual. It’s another great way to have students create biographies of soldiers. Some of the collections are larger than others, so it’s worth going through and selecting specific individuals for this exercise. Don’t miss the lesson plans, which I’ve linked directly here in pdf form.
  • Remember Us (University of Saskatchewan)
    • This online collection, recommended by Eric Story, is a repository for digitized documents pertaining to WW1 from the USask University Archives and Special Collections. Materials are arranged into five categories, On the Brink, Campus, Home Front, World at War, and Aftermath, each with several sub-categories. You can browse by subcategory, or do a keyword search. The website also contains several essays, a bibliography, and a list of USask students who went to war. This list also contains information from the students’ personnel files and digitized documents if available.

Oral History

  • Oral Histories of the First World War: Veterans 1914-1918 (LAC)
    • This is a collection of one-on-one interviews conducted by the CBC with veterans of WW1 between 1964 and 1965. They are organized around seven themes: Second Ypres, Vimy Ridge, War in the Air, The Somme, Trench Warfare, Passchendaele, Perspectives on the War. The interviews are available as audio or transcripts. This would be a great resource for looking at the historical memory of the war; the description of these soldiers from the website itself — “one of the greatest generations that Canada has ever produced” — could provide a starting point for a class discussion.

Photographs and Images

Audio-Visual

  • The First World War: Canada Remembers (CBC Digital Archives)
    • CBC Digital Archives has three entire collections devoted to WW1, but I’ll discuss the other two below. This collection is the general one, and features a range of radio and television clips from CBC’s coverage of the war, at the time and afterwards. Most of the material is from veterans after the war, though this again is an opportunity to learn about and discuss historical memory.
  • Images of a Forgotten War (NFB)
    • In addition to Front Lines, the NFB also has a website devoted specifically to WW1, including more than 120 films shot during the war itself, as well as historical documents. These films are broken down into five “chapters”: Prologue, Building a Force, Wartime, Postwar Period, and Epilogue. The Prologue focuses on the project itself and filmmaking during the war, which is especially interesting. Some of the films in the three middle chapters include lesson plans that can be adapted for survey classes. However, you will need to go through the website to find them yourself since they are not collected in one place. The Epilogue contains essays by academics on the war and its impact.
  • The Virtual Gramophone: First World War Era (LAC)
    • Though the general website is not specific to WW1, it does contain an extensive section devoted to the music of the war. 350 audio recordings of Canadian compositions are available through this website, as well as articles about the music of this period and some of the well-known musicians.

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Media

  • Front Lines (Claude Guilmain – NFB)
    • The film, which came out in 2008, is a Ken Burns-style documentary about nurses and soldiers during WW1. If your institution subscribes to NFB’s CAMPUS service, lesson plans are also available on five specific topics: nursing, officers, daily life, religion, and the trenches.
  • And We Knew How to Dance (NFB)
    • This film deals specifically with the history of women during the war. Twelve women who worked in factories or on farms during WW1 were interviewed in 1994 for this film. Be warned, there is lots of singing, especially of “It’s a long long way to Tipperary.” I showed this once in a class, and my students hated it. But hey, maybe your students won’t?
  • Heritage Minutes (Historica Canada)
    • I think this one is pretty self-explanatory…. Just don’t forget to check out the Learning Resources tab underneath the video. There are some lesson plans included for some of the videos.

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Blogs

  • The Discover Blog (LAC)
    • This blog, which is run by Library and Archives Canada, is dedicated to showcasing some of the archives’ holdings. That said, a significant proportion of their blog posts deal with WW1 in some capacity. These blog posts are tagged as First World War, and can be accessed here.
  • Doing Our Bit
    • I’m kinda skirting the line with this one. Run by Steven Clifford, whose Twitter handle is above, this is a blog devoted to all things WW1 and Canadian. Clifford is an amateur historian, but if you want to keep up to date on all things related to Canada and WW1, including archival discoveries, digitization efforts, talks, and personal stories, this is definitely a blog to keep an eye on. Clifford also provides lots of resources for individuals who are interested in researching this topic themselves.
  • Canada’s First World War: A Centennial Series (Active History)
    • Active History is a blog dedicated to making the work of academic historians accessible to the wider public. This series, which was started back in August 2014, is dedicated to looking at all aspects of WW1. As impressive as this collection already is, there are sure to be many more articles published over the next two years. These blog posts make great readings for survey classes, since they are scholarly, but also readable. Seriously, just go check it out.
  • At Home and Away: Remembering the First World War through Records at the Archives of Manitoba (Archives of Manitoba)
    • Once a week or so, the Archives of Manitoba posts a letter from George Battershill, a Manitoban man who served in WW1. The project started in April 2016 and will continue until April 2017. The letters are mostly written to his parents, and are posted in chronological order, with the date on the letter matching the current date.
  • Canada’s First World War Stories (The Canadian Centre for the Great War)
    • This combination of blog and repository for digitized documents is run by a private organization dedicated to commemorating the Canadian experience during WW1. They post new content to their blog every two weeks or so, and these posts often feature personal stories or interesting vignettes. In the sections entitled Exhibitions and Centennial Stories, you will find slightly more detailed information, usually in the form of digitized primary sources.

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Social Media

Twitter

Facebook

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Thematic

Indigenous Soldiers and Civilians*

*Includes First Nations (status or non-status), Inuit, and Métis, except where noted.

See Also:

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Chinese-Canadian Soldiers and Civilians

See also:

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French-Canadian Soldiers and Civilians

See also:

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Black/African-Canadian Soldiers

See also:

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Japanese-Canadian Soldiers and Civilians

See also:

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Sikh-Canadian Soldiers and Civilians

  • Canadian Soldier Sikhs: A Little Story in a Big War
    • This is the companion website to a documentary about the same name. The information that is here is sparse, but is some of the only information available. For material, check out these sections: The Film, The Research, The Soldiers, and Gallery. This website does contain the list of the known Sikh-Canadians who served in WW1, as well as basic details about their lives.
      • I can’t find the documentary online, but I would imagine it would also be helpful.
  •  Private Buckam Singh: Discovering a Canadian Hero (Sikh Museum)
    • Another treasure trove. This is an online museum exhibit that tells the story of one man, Buckam Singh, one of only 9 (or 10) known Sikhs that were part of the CEF. Singh’s grave is also the only known grave of a Canadian Sikh soldier from WW1. His story is just amazing.

See also:

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Ukrainian and German Internees and Internment Camps

  • The Internment of Ukrainian Canadians (Canadian War Museum)
    • This page is part of the online exhibit above, and deals exclusively with the topic of Ukrainian internees. Once again, the information is quite sparse, and there are only a couple of primary sources.
  • Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund
    • This website is largely dedicated to providing charitable funds for memorials to internees from WW1. That said, its Resources section has some really great information. There is a digital map of internment centres, lists of internment, a small collection of primary sources (in the sub-section called Other Documents), and a teaching guide. The guide is on The Critical Thinking Consortium website, but it is free to download, and includes seven sets of primary sources on the subject of Ukranian internees as well as videos.
      • The direct link to the lesson plan is here.
  • The Camps (Armistice Films)
    • This is a series of documentaries about the various internment camps that have been set up in Canada, mostly for Ukrainian internees. These videos feature archaeologists visiting the sites. There are a total of 17 planned videos in this series.

See also

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Women on the Homefront and at War

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The Halifax Explosion

  • The Halifax Explosion (CBC)
    • This website, developed by the CBC exclusively for the use of teachers, is a true online exhibition. While many of the documents are from the CBC archives or other scholarly sources, also included are first-hand accounts “emailed into the CBC,” so just be careful. There is a whole section devoted to teachers, including activities and webquests appropriate for university survey classes. I can’t deny it; this is a pretty cool website.
  • SOS! Canadian Disasters! (LAC)
    • This website is a collection of various disasters in Canadian history, including a profile of the Halifax Explosion. While the information provided is very brief, there are some photographs as well as newspaper accounts of the explosion.
  • The Halifax Explosion (CBC Digital Archives)
    • Like it says on the tin, this is a collection of radio and video broadcasts from the CBC. While there is some original footage, this collection is exclusively content from after the explosion, reflecting back. There are interviews with survivors and eyewitnesses as well.

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Newfoundland and Labrador

  • Newfoundlanders (Canadian War Museum)
    • Though this website is detailed, it’s also really short. But there are some neat primary sources.
  • Newfoundland and the Somme (Trinity Historical Society)
    • An absolutely amazing collection of materials. There are explanatory essays, but the real gems are the digitized primary sources and images, which you can access at the bottom of each essay. Just be warned that the website is really old, and might be difficult to view on newer devices.
  • Newfoundland and the Great War (Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage)
    • Even though Newfoundland was not part of Canada during WW1, it did send soldiers overseas to serve. This website, created in conjunction with the Association of Newfoundland and Labrador Archives, contains both explanatory articles and primary sources. Included in the primary sources are photographs, music, and short video clips.
  • First World War: 1914-1918 (The Royal Newfoundland Regiment)
    • This website is from the current Royal Newfoundland Regiment, and they’ve created a really detailed website about the experiences of their soldiers throughout the war. Seriously, this website is like a entire book. Also included are a time line, and a great gallery of images. Don’t forget to check out their online historical collection of artefacts!

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Conscientious Objectors and Pacifists

See also:

  • Amy Shaw, “Conscientious Objectors: Fitting Dissent into a Coming of Age Story,” Active History, October 6, 2015. http://activehistory.ca/2015/10/conscientious-objectors-fitting-dissent-into-a-coming-of-age-story/

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You made it to the end! Well done! I hope that you have found this list to be useful. If there is anything you think I should add to it, please let me know in the comments below. As always, don’t forget to check back on Sunday for another new Canadian history roundup. Have a good week!

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4 Comments

  1. Kristine Alexander

    November 12, 2016 at 8:32 pm

    Great stuff as usual, Andrea! I would also recommend wartimecanada.ca, an online project directed by Jonathan Vance and Graham Broad that includes scholarly essays and primary documents (lots of great ephemera!) about the Canadian experience of the First and Second World Wars:
    http://wartimecanada.ca/

  2. This is an excellent post, Andrea! I would also add RememberUS––an online repository of the University of Saskatchewan’s Archives & Special Collections holdings at greatwar.usask.ca

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