WWI Museum curator wins Historical Preservation Award

Bruce Tascona at the Day in the Trenches event at the Manitoba World War One Museum in 2017. Tascona received the Lieutenant Governor's Award for Historical Preservation and Promotion on May 9. (FILE PHOTO)

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After over 40 years of keeping history alive in many ways, a Pilot Mound man has been recognized for his efforts.

Bruce Tascona was awarded the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Historical Preservation and Promotion on May 9.

The award celebrates Manitobans who dedicate their time and energy to keeping the province’s history alive. Along with the recognition, a Regal Celebration Maple tree will be planted in Tascona’s name as part of the Lieutenant Governor’s Tree Project.

Tascona said the award means a lot to him. “To me it’s been quite an honour,” he said. “We’re not talking about a medal or a pin or anything like that… They plant a tree in your name. There’s a legacy that might keep going for quite a few years after I’m gone.”

The award comes as an accumulation of Tascona’s accomplishments over 40 years. He wrote his first book, a collection of uniforms and badges of Manitoban regiments, in 1980 and has written eight since.

He has also helped start two museums, The Legion House Museum in Winnipeg and the Manitoba World War One Museum on his property.

“It’s an accumulation of a lot of things,” he said. “Not fast-tracked or anything, it’s just plod along, plod along doing these little projects and things like that.”

Tascona started as a collector of memorabilia in 1968. “Some people ask if I had a big military background,” he said. “I don’t come from a great military family. I’ve had my father in the war and my grandfather in the First World War, but apart from that I jokingly say I never left my sandbox with my army men. I just got to different levels of playing.”

Tascona said a major highlight of his life has been helping establish a First World War training camp called Camp Hughes as a national historic site.

“Deep down I’m kind of tickled pink because it’s slowly expanding,” he said. “How many people can say they’ve gone from a concept or an idea to actually helping create a park? There’s no lightning bolts, it’s just plodding along, chipping away at something.”

Tascona said he does what he does to remember the veterans. “We’ve just gone through a phase of almost five years of remembering the Great War,” he said. “I think it’s so important to remember what these people did, and it’s our communities that were in this Great War. If the community existed prior to the First World War, they sent volunteers to fight.”

“Every small town seems to have a cenotaph,” he added. “That’s what motivates me in many ways, is trying to remember the veteran.”

On Tascona’s to-do list is another book he wants to finish by 2020. The book is about 150 years of the military in Manitoba, documenting all the different groups and wars.

He also plans to keep running both museums, and said he is looking forward to the Manitoba World War One Museum’s annual Day in the Trenches event on Aug. 11.

The event re-enacts what life was like for soldiers fighting in the trenches.

“To me it’s important to explain the material culture,” he said. “I have a lot of uniforms and personal equipment that the soldiers would have worn.”

For being awarded the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Historical Preservation and Promotion, a tree was also planted in Bruce Tascona’s name to recognize him for his efforts. (SUPPLIED)