Historic Landscapes

Bay View Park, Yarmouth

This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks, bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,  stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic.

Evangeline, H.W. Longfellow

Historic landscapes are an often overlooked part of our cultural heritage. While it may be easy for the general public to recognize a historic landscape such as Grand-Pré, the public only understands the importance of such a site because of the extensive interpretation and pervasive education that mark it as significant (and because of the unrelenting heart of Gabriel Lajeunesse).

What of those sites that do not yet benefit from the protecting cloak of site interpretation and public education? What of traditional Mi’kmaq flintknapping sites? What of the stone and iron work in historic cemeteries? What of sites where public hangings took place? Or of individual trees or rocks that once held a place of cultural meaning in local lore?

Parks, bridges, canals, commons, roads, dykes, sports fields, and other “built” landscapes can be so ubiquitous that we almost don’t recognize their significance. Sometimes it takes someone from “away” to point out the uniqueness of a place. Sometimes a place can appear to be so unchanging, so constant, that locals do not fear it losing its heritage value. Heritage value though is not always eradicated by an early morning excavator; it can also be forfeited slowly over generations.


Prince Street, Truro

By now you are beginning to get an inkling of where this commentary is headed. Everything should be turned into a museum so that history huggers have a place to take (and indoctrinate) their children. Nope! Turning everything into a museum is of course not the answer; nor is it the objective of those engaged in historic preservation. It is in fact, ‘continuous use’ that is often the best preserver of all. It is important though that sites are thoroughly researched and documented and appropriate management plans put in place.

The ongoing preservation of cultural landscapes provides scenic, economic, recreational, ecological, and educational opportunities for Nova Scotians and visitors. Such sites provided early residents with a sense of place and have the ability to continue doing so for many years to come.

Posted by Joe Jul 03, 2011 Posted in Cultural Landscapes, Featured Comments Off

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