commemoration taken into consideration
a place of remembrance
When war is over, the region where it raged has to try and give it a place in societal live re-started. The reconstruction of the Westhoek thus had to embed cemeteries, or to establish new ones, whereas various communities wanted war monuments built. Pilgrims too and visitors in search of the past determined the revival, and rituals such as the Last Post and the Yser Pilgrimage became daily or annually repeated events.
This unique interwovenness with the past is part of the present identity of the Westhoek: in these former fields of battle, the war never goes by.
More than half a million victims never returned home from the war in the Westhoek. This resulted in as many empty places at homely tables. In 2018, a worldwide public has sent chairs to the museum, from over one hundred countries where victims were identified to have been born. Together they formed an impressive installation on Armistice Day.
This participative commemoration turned these chairs into a separate and special museum collection. The Memorial Chairs are exhibited three at a time, while a digital presentation discloses the full collection. For each chair it is explained why and how a country participated in collecting them.
the end of all wars ?
The Great War was stated and counted upon once and for ever to end all wars. Yet the exhibition cannot but end with a drapery full of armed conflicts that since it have taken place somewhere in the world.
Does society teach war to every new generation? Or is war inherent in human existence? Who is responsible for war? The soldiers? The generals who command the soldiers? Politicians who appoint generals? Or the people - we - who elect politicians who appoint generals who...
No matter what, but the other way round: whose calling is it to try and avoid war and its infinite horrors? And how to do that? The museum evoces the questions; to answer them is up to the public.
Ypres City of Peace
The war gave the Westhoek a new identity as a former war region. Since 1985 the city of Ypres explicitly engages with this legacy by calling itself City of Peace.
Through Mayors for Peace the city of Ypres is connected with thousands of others all over the world. Every three years the city awards an international Peace Prize.