By Canadian War Museum Public Affairs –
Meet the Highland soldier, an almost mythical figure with many faces: fierce protector of clans, adventurous soldier of fortune, defiant rebel, national and international hero. The Ottawa world premiere of Highland Warriors, a major new exhibition at the Canadian War Museum (CWM), explores the changing role and reputation of these iconic kilted fighters, from the broadsword-wielding medieval warrior to today’s elite modern soldier.
“The Highland military tradition has evolved from early clan warfare in Britain’s northern reaches to a highly respected global force with the power to influence and inspire,” said Mark O’Neill, President and CEO of the Canadian War Museum and the Canadian Museum of History. “With Highland Warriors, we are proud to bring much-deserved attention to this fascinating and lesser known chapter in military history — and especially to show how both the myth and reality have become entwined in Canada’s national identity.”
Highland Warriors explores the trajectory of an enduring military tradition over 800 years, from its origins in local medieval warfare, to its mobilization for national political influence, to its elevation as a potent symbol of British power and Canadian military prowess. From fierce Gaelic-speaking fighters of the Middle Ages, through Scottish Jacobites loyal to King James VII, to the proud traditions of Highland regiments in Canada today, the exhibition showcases a culture known as much for courage, toughness, discipline and skill, as for resplendent tartans and the haunting call of bagpipes.
The exhibition features over 200 artifacts, from Scottish museums’ world-class collections and from the Canadian War Museum, including fearsome double-handed swords, dangerous dirks, lavishly decorated pistols, uniforms, bagpipes, paintings, photographs, and military awards from two World Wars. More recent conflicts are reflected in a desert camouflage combat shirt worn by Lieutenant-Colonel Nicholas Calder of the Royal Regiment of Scotland in Afghanistan’s Helmand province in 2008. The shirt is displayed with the medals he earned for his gallantry and leadership, and shows the Highlanders’ reach around the world, along with their enduring status. Rounding out the exhibition, a Canadian flag carried by a Canadian-born officer while serving with the Royal Regiment of Scotland, together with his Balmoral bonnet, illustrate continuing relationship between Canada and Scotland. Also on view, a regimental signboard from Afghanistan, featuring an excerpt from Sir Walter Scott’s 1804 poem “The Lay of the Last Minstrel,” speaks to the enduring emotional connection between Scottish patriotism and the wild landscape of the Highlands.
Together with evocative text, these objects help tell the stories of the individuals and armies that have contributed to the Highland warrior’s well-earned place in history and in popular imagination.
Interactive content and hands-on activities enhance an exhibition that takes visitors not only back in time, but also around the world, ranging as far and wide as Highland soldiers themselves.
Highland Warriors, developed by Nomad Exhibitions in collaboration with the Canadian War Museum and Glasgow Museums, is presented in Ottawa from 7 June, 2019 to 12 January, 2020. An Ottawa world premiere!
The Canadian War Museum is Canada’s national museum of military history. Its mission is to promote public understanding of Canada’s military history in its personal, national and international dimensions. Work of the Canadian War Museum is made possible in part through financial support of the Government of Canada.
Photo provided by CWM
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