The Canadian Letters and Images Project is an online archive of the Canadian war experience, from any war, as told through the letters and images of Canadians themselves. Begun in August 2000, the Project is located in the Department of History at Vancouver Island University. Through the digitization of contemporary letters, diaries, photographs, and other related materials, the Project permits Canadians to tell their story, and Canada’s story, through their own words and images. It is history without a lens of interpretation by the present.
As a starting point to understand what we do, please have a look at the CHEK TV story about the project from November, 2013. You can access that video by clicking here. Also have a look at the CTV News story about the project from November, 2012. You can access the video by clicking here.
There is also a short video about the project done by a student at Vancouver Island University currently available on YouTube. You can access the video by clicking on the link here.
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The Project was created as a resource to make these important materials of our past accessible to all Canadians. Its purpose is to make the past available to the present and to preserve it for future generations. Too often the story told of Canada at war has been one of great battles and great individuals, an approach that unfortunately misses the 'ordinary' Canadian and the richness of their wartime experience. This project attempts to make visible again those who have who have made contributions and sacrifices for Canada, but who now have become largely invisible.
Due to their personal nature these materials remind us that the story of war is ultimately the story of individuals. This Project is a means to put a human face to war and to remind us that those statistics of wartime battles, or the names on the cenotaphs, are far more than simply numbers or names etched in stone. The materials help to recreate some of the richness of their lives, ordinary individuals who did extraordinary things for our nation.
It is our hope is that through the Project Canadians can share with one another the more personal side of a country at war. Such a collection allows us to better appreciate the struggles, anguish and joy, of Canada during wartime. It also stands as a tribute to all Canadians, past and present, home front and battlefront, who have in any manner contributed to Canada's wartime efforts.
The materials which comprise this Project come from every part of the country, and from outside the country as well. In many respects this Project is a partnership with Canadians, as most of the materials found in this Project come from private families who have generously shared those materials with us.
The most important aspect of the Project’s work is that we do not keep original materials. The Canadian Letters and Images Project is seeking to borrow any correspondence, diaries, photographs or other personal materials connected to Canadians at war, home front and battlefront, from any conflict in which Canadians have participated. They are then digitized and returned to the family. In this manner Canadians can share these important materials from Canada’s past and yet still retain their valued family heirlooms. It is due to the generous sharing of these materials that the Project continues to grow.
The Canadian Letters and Images Project will make arrangements at our expense to have any materials picked up and returned by courier to ensure the safety of those materials.
We believe it is important to collect and recreate the personal side of the wartime experience as soon as possible, before such materials are forever lost or destroyed. Each and every piece of correspondence, every photograph, or any other item connected to Canadians during wartime, is a valuable artifact linking us to our past. While one letter or photograph may by itself seem insignificant, in combination with the multitude of other materials found in the Project that single item can help to tell a remarkable story of the unyielding spirit of a country at war.
We believe that every item that comes to us in the collections has merit and so all collections will appear in their entirety. The Project does not edit or censor any materials in its collections. We do not edit correspondence or select portions of collections, but include if at all possible all materials submitted to us. Our place is not to judge the historic merit of one person's experiences over those of another, nor is it to judge the appropriateness of language or content from the perspective of the present
The Project has retained as closely as possible the original spelling, punctuation, and paragraph structure in the transcribed versions. We have not noted irregularities in spelling by the use of [sic] in order to remain as unobtrusive as possible in the transcribed versions. Words or portions of words which are missing or illegible are noted by the use of [?]. Overall the policy is to provide minimal explanatory notes unless absolutely essential to the understanding of the material, and instead to permit the material to tell its own story in its own words in the original form.
The Project is a not for profit educational project dependent of the financial contributions of Canadians to continue to operate. We do not have corporate or government funding. The work of the Project is largely undertaken by students, so that approximately 85% of all donations are used to hire students as research assistants.
All contributions are tax deductible through The Vancouver Island University Foundation (charitable registration number 887333482RR0001). A tax receipt will be issued for all donations.
Contributions can be made payable to “The VIU Foundation/Letters and Images Project.
Contributions or any other questions or comments can be directed to:
Dr. Stephen Davies
The Canadian Letters and Images Project
Vancouver Island University
900 Fifth Street
Nanaimo, British Columbia
Telephone: (250) 753-3245 ext. 2131