Monday, April 06, 2009

Brave letter in the Globe & Mail today from a local museum curator about cuts to the big provincially-run historic site in his neighbourhood:
You note that Michelin will be reviewing the historic re-enactment program at Morrisburg's Upper Canada Village in its Canadian guidebook (Guidebooks: Michelin Launches In Canada - Travel, April 4). They had better get there soon. This year, 24 of the village's 92 seasonal re-enactment employees will not be hired; instead, there'll be audio-visual presentations and faux events such as medieval festivals to turn what was once one of North America's top historic tourist destinations into Disney World North.
-- Ian Bowering, Curator, Stormont,Dundas & Glengarry, Museum/Archives
When I worked at the Historic Sites Service of Parks Canada, there was a slight sense of competitive superiority. The feds had more money, more research apparatus, more authenticity. But I've always been a fan of Upper Canada Village. A historical geographer I know fumes that they refused to lay the place out the way actual Upper Canadian villages were organized, so it has this complicated rural sprawl, farms and shops all together, but it seems to work for me.

I don't mind multiple use at historic sites, either. Using one as a dramatic background for a music festival doesn't offend me much.

But Ian Bowering is absolutely right. Historic site recreations live and die on the detail, on the level of effort. They are labour-intensive or they fail. Trying to do a Michelin-worthy historic site and make these cuts is so evidently self-defeating.

UCV Photo: Georgio Zanetti via Google Images.
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