I realize it’s been quite a while since my last posting and I’m going to get the ball rolling with a post that’s a bit outside of my usual fare. I debated whether it was appropriate to use this forum to discuss what could be considered political matters. Until now, I’ve steered away from introducing topics beyond the spectrum of the shop but after some pondering, I’ve decided to jump in with both feet.
You see, this is an issue that’s near and dear to my heart, whether I’m counting myself as a Maritimer, local business owner, aspiring archaeologist or general history buff. It affects my experience in all of these roles and more. It affects us all as a country in our ability to tell the story of our past. I believe that many of you reading this, whether here in Nova Scotia or elsewhere in the country (or the world, for that matter) are also keenly aware of the value of history and hold knowledge of the past as critical to living in the present.
I’m very concerned about the recently announced cuts to Parks Canada. These cuts affect this venerable institution’s ability to discover, protect and share our collective past. While Parks Canada venues across the country are feeling the effects, close to home, the Parks Canada lab in Woodside will be closed and their collections will be shipped to a central facility in Gatineau, Quebec. This removes a huge array of artifacts and resources from use by the region’s archaeologists, researchers and students. As well, it takes these cultural items out of the very communities they represent. To affect this move, the federal government will need to buy out the remaining 17 years on the (purpose-built) building’s lease as well as cover the costs of packing, moving and unpacking the collections. I don’t believe any figures have been released for this undertaking but they will surely be substantial.
Others with greater experience in the field and deeper personal knowledge of the issues have shared their understandings and I encourage you to explore this material if you share my concerns. Visit the Canadian Archaeological Association’s page on the cuts or Miriam Fry’s posting in the Grand-Pré Archaeological Diary.
As well, members of the local archaeology community have been doing a top-notch job communicating with various media outlets. You can view the stories here, here, here and here.
As a shop owner, I regularly encounter visitors who are enthralled by the rich heritage of the area, presented through local Parks Canada sites like the Halifax Citadel and Grand Pré (just recently named as a UNESCO World Heritage site). I fear what will happen to that stream of interested visitors when the storytelling and presentation of information at these sites is undermined. I understand that various sites will replace human interpreters with smart phone apps and self guided tours. A particularly cynical part of me imagines that somewhere out there, a bureaucrat is weighing the cost savings in replacing the daily firing of the Citadel’s noon gun with an interactive video of the event. Alarmist? Hopefully, but in this climate of disregard and devaluing of history, it doesn’t seem wholly out of line.
If you feel so motivated, please consider writing or phoning your federal representative, one of the relevant ministers and/or Stephen Harper himself to express your concerns. The CAA page has all sorts of relevant contact information.
We’ll be back to our regular programming with the next post but I do encourage anyone to share their thoughts here (as well as with appropriate officials).