A significant, multi-year effort of the Columbus Centre/Villa Charities, Italian Canadians as Enemy Aliens: Memories of World War II was designed to raise awareness of a little-known event in Canadian history – the designation of over 30,000 Italian Canadians as “enemy aliens” during World War II and the internment of approximately 600 of these “aliens” in remote camps. During the course of the project, archival materials and oral testimony were collected from surviving Italian Canadian internees, their family members, and others who were affected by the internment. Collectively, the materials and testimony now constitute a community archive. A trilingual (English, French, Italian) website was launched in 2012 featuring a virtual exhibit, personal information on 591 internees, and a digital archive including over 1,000 photographs, letters, documents, and objects, and 105 video interviews with transcripts. The initiative also resulted in a permanent exhibit housed at the Columbus Centre, a travelling exhibit, Ordinary Lives, Extraordinary Times: Italian Canadian Experiences During World War II, and a publication, Beyond Barbed Wire: Essays on the Internment of Italian Canadians. The Columbus Centre/Villa Charities sought the MHSO’s advice during the conception and implementation of this project.
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