Today we visited Juno Beach Centre in Courseulles sur Mer, and toured around the Canadian Museum on the D-Day Beach Landings. This was such a very moving place.
The museum opened on 6 June 2003, and is a memorial at the site of the Canadian beach landings on 6 June 1944. The building, a titanium plated star-shape, is set in beautiful grounds, I’m told, though we really didn’t catch anything more than the interior today; it is a real brolly buster today and we got soaked walking to the centre!
The museum pays tribute to the Canadians’ part in the Second World War as well as the history of Canada before, during, and after the War. Outside, by the entrance, are war memorials. What really struck me is that we have these memorials, stories and videos of the awfulness of war, and yet still we fight, still our governments spend billions on armies. It’s so sad.
Staff in the centre are young Canadians who are passionate about both the museum, the exhibits, and their country. The exhibits have been presented in a very thoughtful way, starting with a short video to set the scene – we are told of the war from the point of view of a soldier.
From there the history of Canada is told though a self-directed tour around the exhibits. James busied himself playing with this piece of wood, carved in the shape of France, over the map of Canada. It’s clear to see how big Canada is!
I didn’t realise until afterwards that even the colours and lighting in each room have been planned to evoke memories and portray the message of the time in history, for example the rooms covering the war period are grey and blue, with dim lighting.
There are many, many videos to watch and listen to. All have both French and English commentary or subtitles.
Additionally there are lots of personal stories of soldiers, and also of Canadians back home, helping the war effort. I found the story of John Weir Foote, who was awarded the Victoria Cross. Maybe he was a relation; Rob always says Foote is a French name, and how we laugh.
The exhibits are excellent and very informative. Even with chasing a toddler running from room to room, playing with other children, I managed to read so much of the interesting history. It’s really well laid out in bite size pieces, and I think you might naturally take yourself round in about an hour to ninety minutes, though as it’s self-directed you could take more or less time.
The final room, before the shop, is a display on modern day Canada. The children were all drawn to this naturally lit room, and we found they began to giggle and play rather than chase and hide from each other.
After the gift shop was a chance to view a temporary exhibit – What Was It Like In The War, Grandma? which actually is a question not too many will be able to ask very soon. This room showed what it might have been like for a school aged child during the war, both in France and Canada. It had some great interactive features including the ever-popular dress up box, but I’m afraid we didn’t have the chance to look at everything here as it was time to head out of the Juno Beach centre and back into the pouring rain!