From Glen Notes to War Notes: A Canadian Perspective on the First World War in Rilla of Ingleside

This exhibit examines L.M. Montgomery’s novel, Rilla of Ingleside against its First World War backdrop. Each section of the exhibit is curated to show the perspective of characters from the book—Rilla, Walter, Anne, Susan, Jem, Shirley, and Whiskers-on-the-Moon. Topics include: (1) lost youth, (2) the home front, (3) the battle front, (4) war poets, (5) pacifism, and (6) L.M. Montgomery’s creative process in writing Rilla of Ingleside.

Rilla of Ingleside was L. M. Montgomery’s tenth novel and the last book in the Anne of Green Gables series. The story begins just before the start of the First World War and follows the war to its end. It depicts life in a small Canadian community in Prince Edward Island during the War and focuses on the Blythe family, which includes Anne and her husband Gilbert, and their children, Rilla, Walter, Jem, and Shirley.

As the novel is framed by newspaper accounts of local events and the war, we decided to call the exhibit “From Glen Notes to War Notes” to reflect the transition in interest by Susan Baker, the Blythe family’s housekeeper, from the local affairs of Glen St. Mary (the community in which they live) and reported in the “Glen Notes” column of the local newspaper to foreign affairs reported in the “War Notes” column.

Materials selected for the exhibit were drawn primarily from the library’s extensive Lucy Maud Montgomery Collection. In particular, the curators looked at important editions of the novel and the original manuscript of the book, Montgomery’s journals and scrapbooks, and her photograph collection. To contextualize the book against its First World War backdrop, we identified materials on the War from the archives of the Ontario Agricultural College, Ontario Veterinary College, and MacDonald Institute.

The online exhibit was based on a physical case exhibit (launched in March 2018), which was curated by University Guelph librarians, History students, and faculty. Among these were two fourth-year undergraduate history majors, who participated as part of an experiential learning experience for course credit.
 
Curators of the physical exhibit: Catherine Carstairs (Professor History), Kathryn Harvey (Head, Archival & Special Collections), Keshia Krucker (4th year student, History), Kesia Kvill (Ph.D candidate, History), Melissa McAfee (Special Collections Librarian), Abigail Murray (4th year student, History), and Ashley Shifflett McBrayne (Archives Associate).

Curators of the online exhibit: Peter Flannery (MA candidate, Art History), Melissa McAfee (Special Collections Librarian), and Kristyn Pacione (Archives Clerk).

Metadata Consultant: Gillian Manford (Archives Clerk).