« And the exhibition ? Is it still going? » … a frequent question to which the simple answer is : “from strength to strength.” So what’s new then in the last three months?
The number of visitors? It has not diminished. In six months we have had a total of more than 3500 visitors. In the last three months the net reduction in the number of school groups has been compensated for by a real rush of retired people :clubs, associations, movements bringing their year’s activities to an end with the traditional “day out”.Sometimes we have received quite large groups : the Movement of Christians in Retirement (MCR) from Hennebont,
Languidic and Rennes; sisters in community service from Finistère and Morbihan ; from retirement homes including the elderly priests from the House of St Joachim at St Anne d’Auray ; communities of religious brothers and sisters :
- Daughters of Jesus who discover with emotion the engagement of our precursors in this unique page of our history ;
- and all the others too numerous to mention, as they go from A for the Augustines of Gouarec to S for the Sisters of Sagesse.
What stands out? From March onwards, numerous meetings with the Hocquet family. Profitng from a session in Paris, our team visited the sites of the atrocious battles of Artois, where masses of French and British perished along with their colonial brothers from Canada, Newfoundland, India … etc. In the North, at Blécourt, at the home of Daniel and Micheline Hocquet we met their aunt Marie Thérèse, 84 years old, herself the daughter of Henri Hocquet, who asked Mother Blandine to receive his family at Kermaria. The 11th May, we met up again with the great grand-daughter of the soldier Achille Hocquet, Opéhile, who had come especially with her parents for the concert. The visitors, old and young, are always fascinated when we recount the reunion a century later of this family with Kermaria.
The 11th May: A second edition of the concert already given in November dedicated to the songs of the 1914 – 1918 war sung or composed at Kermaria. An undeniable success. A CD of the songs, accompanied by a booklet with the words has been recorded and remains on sale.
And what is there to say about the “visitors”? Let’s say that it’s more a question of “partners” because of the exchange that takes place. Many, as soon as they enter, mention quite spontaneously a father, a grandfather, a great-uncle fallen at Salonika, at Verdun, at the Chemin des Dames … or with tears in their eyes the three or four sons who disappeared.
The exhibition, the commentaries given by the guide, the video subsequently mingle with their cloudy family memories, their confused notions of geography and history, their emotions and their questioning. They appreciate being able to part better informed, and at the same time enhanced, you could even say justified, that their small family history has suddenly found its place, its sense and its grandeur in the huge national drama.
The partnership also plays out at another level by the exchange of documents, photos, and objects. In this way the municipal archives of Vannes who are preparing an exhibition on the theme of Vannes, town-hospital were pleased to find the reports and journals written by our nursing sisters placed in six hospitals in Vannes.
Our own collections have been enriched by conscripts’ letters, articles of military uniform and various objects, lent or very often given by their owners.
Who are these visitors? You could say that sometimes an “out of the ordinary” visitor arrives, such as Monsignor Harpigny, Bishop of Tournai or Monsignor Centène, Bishop of Vannes, or some well known personality … but that would be to say that there exists a “common profile”. In fact, there isn’t one and our joy is exactly that, when we see each visor go away again with his or her personal expectations fulfilled :
- there is the history buff, avid to know,
- there is the artist who appreciates the beauty of the diverse elements and takes delight even in their presentation.
- There is the person whose heart beats spontaneously with those who took part in and were the victims of this war. Whether they express it, whether they write in the visitor’s book or just remain silent … it doesn’t matter!
The exhibition has achieved its aim!