Museum’s 1812 exhibit sheds light on the nature of war

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Young Hana Suter visited the Chatham-Kent Museum over the weekend with her sister Jennifer and their father to check out a very special exhibit on loan from the Canadian War Museum.

Young Hana Suter visited the Chatham-Kent Museum over the weekend with her sister Jennifer and their father to check out a very special exhibit on loan from the Canadian War Museum.

Anyone stepping through the doors of the Chatham-Kent Museum this season will be stepping back in time 200 years.

The museum is one of two in Ontario to become recipients of the “1812 – One War, Four Perspectives” core exhibit on loan from the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. It will be on display until March 16.

With the help of artifacts, a window to the past is opened, giving insight into the viewpoints of the Canadians, Americans, British and Natives and what the war meant to each of them.

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Celebrating the grand opening on Jan. 10, attendant and book preserver Mario Cini said many of those who visit the exhibit take away the understanding of what the War of 1812 really meant.

“Although nobody would say we played a critical role, we played an important one. What happened at the Battle of the Thames, although not a crucial battle, it helped to define Canada’s dominance and our determination to be a country,” Cini said.

“A lot of people don’t realize that Canada came this close to not existing.”

The exhibit features genuine artifacts from the war, including swords, rifles and medallions. Cini said visitors often comment on the preserved uniform tops in the collection that have survived more than 200 years, with many patrons noting the uniforms’ sizes are consistent and significantly smaller compared to the average male today.

“When you look at them, there is almost no shoulder, no chest and are all very small in stature,” explained Cini. “It was typical of the times.”

Another intriguing piece is a copper sheeted snare drum with intricate hand-painted designs.

“It’s not one of those things you’d expect to survive,” said Cini.

Since the exhibit opened in late December, the museum has had many visitors locally and others have come from as far as the Ohio, Michigan and Sarnia.

Of all the attendees, Cini said the biggest fans seem to be kids, whether they’re on a class trip or visiting with a guardian.

“The kids are generally fascinated, especially if you take the time to tell the smaller stories,” said Cini.

Some children have even gone home after their visits and brought their parents back with them.

Cini said while the weapons get a lot of attention, especially from kids, it’s important to walk away with the sense of what war can do.

“It’s about reminding us that we can deteriorate to this and fall into this kind of cruelty and hatred towards each other. It’s a good reminder.”

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