Tuesday, October 19, 2010

New in Canada's History: Looking at Historic Sites

A little Louisbourg meme going. Tonight the fortress is featured on CBC-TV's "Mercer Report."  Mercer will be funny and disrespectful, and Parks Canada will (correctly) consider it good value for the publicity -- much like the politicians who get teased on the program.

A very similar photo of Louisbourg (but it's not RM wearing the costume) illustrates my column in the October-November Canada's History.  The column, "Subverting our Stories?" is a consideration of a recent book by Ian McKay and Robin Bates, In the Province of History: The Making of the Public Past in Twentieth Century Nova Scotia.

McKay and Bates declare that "tourism/history" in general, and all of Nova Scotia's historic sites in particular, form a sinkhole of fraudulence where gullible tourists are fed lies about the past:
Tourism/history poses no questions, issues no challenges, demands no recognitions, and presents no contradictions.
I am less than persuaded, let us say:
McKay and Bates see only passive consumers believing all they are told. The authors do disavow (in one paragraph) the idea of “cunning corporate villains” who “manipulate a brainwashed travelling public,” but that is pretty much what they discover throughout the “province of history.” 
Still, it's a powerful and perhaps widely-held academic view they present, one well worth engaging with. And I was glad to have an opportunity to draw CH readers' attention to Ian McKay's powerful and intriguing "liberal order framework" interpretation of Canadian history -- which has an important role here but is more effectively deployed in some of his other works.

If you subscribed like you ought to, you would already have the issue in your hands.  If not, well, it's on better newsstands everywhere.

Update, October 20: Louisbourg looked quite spectacularly beautiful as Mercer's backdrop.
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