The National War Memorial: A window on our past

Historical images are a window on our past. They provide an opportunity to take in the scene and build a story around what is being represented — or spark an interest in finding out the real story about what is going on. You can step back and enjoy the picture as a whole, or narrow your focus to look at specific details that others may miss. It is a moment in time that has been preserved for the future.

In my previous blog post, I told you about how my team has been digitizing photographic collections from the National Capital Commission archives through Library and Archives Canada’s DigiLab resources. The old images of the National War Memorial have always stood out to me. Its meaning is still the same over all these years. It is a tribute to Canadians who have served in times of war and sacrificed their lives for us.

I work near the National War Memorial and pass Confederation Square several times a day. I’m also familiar with it, as the NCC works in collaboration with Canadian Heritage to maintain the National War Memorial and other monuments on NCC lands. However, I can honestly say that my previous understanding of the amount of work and effort that went into making the memorial a reality was limited.

As we worked with Library and Archives Canada to digitize some of our photo assets, three great scrapbooks on Confederation Square came to life. In these scrapbooks are several images dedicated to building the National War Memorial, and they have provided me with a new-found appreciation for the work involved.

Below are a few shots that show the stages of the work. It’s interesting to note the progress of construction between the first image, from June, and the last one, from October.

Construction of the National War Memorial

Construction of the National War Memorial: Overhead view of Connaught Place (now Confederation Square) looking west toward (from left to right) the building that now houses D’Arcy McGee’s pub, Sparks Street, the post office and Langevin Block (now named the Office of the Prime Minister and Privy Council), June 27, 1938.

Credit: Library and Archives Canada / National Capital Commission fonds / e999911922

National Memorial Site, under construction.

National War Memorial Site, under construction. General view of scaffolding and winches, August 31, 1938.

Credit: Library and Archives Canada / National Capital Commission fonds / e999911951

National War Memorial site, under construction.

National War Memorial site, under construction. View of bronze statues before mounting, September 29, 1938.

Credit: Library and Archives Canada / National Capital Commission fonds / e999911958

National Memorial Site, under construction.

National War Memorial site, under construction, scaffolding removed, October 12, 1938.

Credit: Library and Archives Canada / National Capital Commission fonds / e999911960

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