Many valuable collections of military artifacts and memorabilia may be lost as aging custodians become fewer, military veterans and historians say.
"Our volunteers here are Second World War and Korean War vets," Jim McKinny, a veteran with the Nutana branch of the Royal Canadian Legion in Saskatoon, told CBC News. "So the youngest one would be in their low 80s."
The Nutana Legion boasts a large artifact room in its basement, filled with fascinating items associated with Canada's military. McKinny is worried the stories linked to the items will be lost when the volunteer curators are no longer around.
The situation is similar across the country: Valuable military artifacts are housed in modest quarters in the basements and storage rooms of Legion halls.
Rory Cory, curator of the Military Museum of Calgary, says the approach adopted in Alberta could offer a solution.
In Calgary, seven Alberta military museums have gathered their collections under one roof. "We can pool our staff and financial resources and develop a better facility," Cory said.
The model is being looked at in other provinces, although some are concerned time is running out for other museums to make the most of an amalgamation. That means priceless items — and memories — could end up being sold to private collectors.
"There's the danger that they'll get sold off and lost from the public trust," Cory said.
A more worrisome concern is that the items could simply be left behind after a Legion branch closes, with no one to care for them.
"That stuff will just be left behind after the Legion closes," Cory said. "Boxes in the basement and over time they just deteriorate and that material history just gets lost."