Western University’s wartime contributions will be recognized as part of the McIntosh Gallery’s new book launch, Behind the Lines, on Nov. 9.
“The book comes out of the two exhibitions we presented earlier this year as part of our 75th anniversary,” explains Catherine Elliot Shaw, McIntosh gallery curator. The gallery’s anniversary coincides with Canada 150, resulting in a year-long project to commemorate Western and Canadian art and war contributions.
Recent McIntosh exhibitions Battlefields of my Ancestors by Shelly Niro — Governor General’s Award winner — and In the beginning, 1942 and Behind the Lines: Canada's Homefront During the First and Second World Wars make up the framework of the publication.
“I started thinking about how all of our focus seems to be oversees, primarily in Europe,” says Shaw. “And I thought, what was going on in Canada across the nation to support those two world wars?”
As Shaw discovered, there was a lot going on that impacted Canada, its society and the role of women. She notes, for example, that over 20,000 women worked in munitions factories during the First World War.
“That led to a huge change which really solidified during the Second World War as more women took on those kinds of roles and eventually led to the women’s movement,” she adds.
Shaw hopes that the publication will give people an understanding not only of what went on across the country but also here at Western.
“Things like the development of radar and women coming to be trained in laboratory techniques in chemistry so that they could go and help develop synthetic rubber in Sarnia, which was absolutely crucial to winning the second World War.”
Shaw adds that the exhibits reproduced in the publication use the selected artworks to tell the stories of ordinary people and what they did to support the war efforts during both global conflicts.
Behind the Lines also includes insights from local historians, Western scholars and fourth-year anthropology student Olivia Chlebicki.
In her third year, Chlebicki was a work-study student at McIntosh Gallery, helping Shaw conduct research for the McIntsoh Canada 150 programming and paying particular attention to a barrage map held in Western’s Map and Data Centre. The artifact shows the tactics of the Canadian Machine Gun Corps during the Battle of the Canal du Nord and was displayed in the Behind the Lines exhibit.
“You don’t get these opportunities as a student often. I felt really honoured,” she says.
Other topics in the book include First Nations peoples' involvement, women in the workforce, Japanese internment camps and artists’ depictions of the home front, providing an unprecedented resource for Londoners and Canadians as a whole.
“[These] kinds of stories are becoming more and more important to understanding how we have arrived here in 2017 as a nation,” says Shaw. “The kinds of activities that were tremendously important to the war effort, but also those stories that essentially were not our shining hour as they related to the Japanese Internees [for example].”
The upcoming Behind the Lines publication pays tribute to the research being done at Western and shows how McIntosh Gallery has used the arts to discuss Canadians' contributions to the war effort.
The book launch and signing for Behind the Lines: Canada's Home Front During the First and Second World Wars will take place Nov. 7 from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Royal Canadian Regiment Museum at Wolseley Barracks, 701 Oxford Street East. After the launch, the book will be available at Brown and Dickson Booksellers.