Weapons of Mass Dissemination: The Propaganda of War

November 17, 2005

Weapons of Mass Dissemination: The Propaganda of War
From November 17, 2005 to April 30, 2006

Ottawa, Ontario, November 17, 2005 – Visit the Canadian War Museum for the opening of Weapons of Mass Dissemination: The Propaganda of War. The exhibition, originally developed by The Wolfsonian-Florida International University, highlights some of the visual propaganda tools used in the United States, Canada and other countries during the First and Second World Wars, as well as the Spanish Civil War. Persuasive images, built on emotional headlines, bright colours and strong symbolism, evoke feelings of fear, anger, pride and patriotism. Posters, books, toys and postcards helped to support recruitment, promote military-related production, inform citizens about proper conduct, and assure them that their governments were taking appropriate action.

This exhibition illustrates how wartime visual propaganda strove to promote single points of view for adoption by all citizens. It depicts how countries used imagery combined with words to maintain morale or instil hatred, and how this material served both to spread information and to obscure the truth.

The Canadian War Museum has added a Canadian component to complement this exhibition. Featuring posters from the Museum’s collection, footage from the National Film Board (NFB), as well as special hands-on programming, it provides a brief historical introduction to the development of propaganda in Canada during the two world wars. Public programmes include screenings of NFB propaganda films, creative workshops, and a popular speaker series on the subject of mass media and propaganda.

Propaganda workshops

[Propaganda: the organized dissemination of information to influence thoughts, beliefs, feelings and actions.]

Propagandists exploit the power of words and images to construct persuasive messages that evoke feelings of fear and anger, pride and patriotism. In suggesting or presenting one point of view to the exclusion of others, propagandists during the two world wars were neither the first nor the last to manage information in this fashion. Propaganda is just as much a part of our contemporary world, in commercial advertising or political campaigning.

Visitors are invited to test their skills as propagandists through informal activities directed by Canadian War Museum animators. These weekend workshops are offered throughout the day on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays in the Special Exhibition programming area of the Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae Gallery.

See the Big Picture
Visitors can try their hand at newspaper or magazine editing and decide what photos, headlines and text will make it to print. Along the way, they will gain new insights into how the news is fashioned, and see how the same story can be reported in many ways.

Using a combination of text and images reproduced from the collection of posters from the exhibition, plus other supplied material, visitors mix and match to create their own propaganda.

Create Your Own
In this workshop, participants create a propaganda poster from scratch, taking their inspiration from the works in the exhibition and/or the suggestions of Museum animators. The animators will also provide tips on how to produce effective print propaganda.

Film Series

Some of the themes of the exhibition will be explored more fully in special evening film screenings in the Barney Danson Theatre. Admission is free.

November 24 – 7 p.m.
The War for Minds, Second World War Propaganda Films from the National Film Board Collection
Discover how Canadian wartime films were used as powerful weapons in winning support for the war effort. Introduction by Jeff Keshen, Weapons of Mass Dissemination: The Propaganda of War guest curator and University of Ottawa history professor.

December 15, 2005 – 7 p.m.
This documentary by Ottawa filmmaker James O’Regan pays tribute to the men and women who worked in the Canadian Army Film and Photo Unit during the Second World War. (English only)

January 19, 2006 – 7 p.m.
Moving Pictures
Montreal filmmaker Colin Low traces his growing awareness of war, the perversion of art into propaganda, and the technological advances that have led to the more efficient creation and dissemination of both propoganda images and weapons of mass destruction.

Presented in partnership with the National Film Board of Canada. (English only)

Spring 2006
Canadian Propaganda Films of the 1940s Reworked
Experience wartime propaganda films as remixed by young Canadian digital artists. The results are fresh and creative interpretations of the originals, produced with contemporary technology, techniques and perspectives.


Formal school programme
This 90-minute programme for students in Grades 7 to 10 and Secondary 1-5 will be led by Canadian War Museum animators. Topics include a comparison of mass communications in the 1940s with today; elements of propaganda; the prevalence and importance of propaganda in the Second World War; and the analysis of contemporary examples of persuasion and propaganda. Links to the (Ontario) curriculum include English (Media Studies); History (The Twentieth Century – Grade10); and The Arts (Visual and Media Arts). The programme will be based in one of the ateliers and will also make use of the Weapons of Mass Dissemination exhibition space.

This exhibition is organized by The Wolfsonian-Florida International University, Miami Beach, Florida.

Information (media) :

Christina Selin
Senior Media Relations Officer
Canadian War Museum
Telephone: (819) 776-8607
E-mail: christina.selin@warmuseum.ca.

Pierre Leduc
Communications Officer
Canadian War Museum
Phone: (819) 776-8608
E-mail: pierre.leduc@warmuseum.ca.