The CWM’s National Collection is an assembly of military artifacts and arts works that represents the Canadian military experience and promotes public understanding of Canada’s military history in its personal, national, and international dimensions. The National Collection is a unified whole. The eight divisions that make up the National Collection are interrelated components of a single overarching collection. Programs and exhibitions that display articles from the divisions fulfill the CWM’s mission and mandate when they interact with and complement artifacts from the other divisions. For the sake of effective administration, research, and collecting, the National Collection is divided into smaller, more manageable divisions.
Since its inception well over a century ago, the National Collection has developed into an internationally-recognized compilation of approximately 500,000 military-related objects. These materials provide the Museum’s publics with the tangible evidence required to understand the personal, national, and international dimensions of Canadian military history. Exhibitions, both in-house and traveling, loans to other institutions, and CWM public programmes use these resources to reveal the human experience of war by emphasizing the impact of organized human conflict on Canada and Canadians, past and present. Museum visitors learn that, through war, conflict, and peace support operations, Canadians shaped, and were shaped, by the world around them.
The CWM’s National Collection is composed of two main components, the Collection Division and the Military History Research Centre (MHRC). The Collection Division includes military artifacts and art works managed by the Arms and Armour Collection, Art and Memorials Collection, Dress and Insignia Collection, Transportation and Artillery Collection, and the Living History Collection. The MHRC houses the George Metcalf Archival Collection and the Hartland Molson Library.