Parks Canada is about to lend more depth to history as it weaves together the voices of the past in a fabric that may bring about new understanding of where we came from.
The public is invited to come and take a look at Fort Anne’s new exhibits in the completely refurbished officers quarters at an 11 a.m. ceremony that also includes the unveiling of an Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada plaque recognizing the national historic importance of Fort Anne.
It’s the 100th anniversary of Fort Anne being recognized as the first National Historic Site, called a Dominion Park in 1917 when it was designated, said Parks Canada’s Lillian Stewart. And it’s also the 150th anniversary of Confederation.
“It was an opportunity for us to take a look at refurbishing the exhibits for the new century of national historic sites,” she said. The existing exhibits, award-winning in their day, were getting old and it was time to take a new look at the stories and tell them in a more interactive way, using new technology, new information, and new knowledge.
“It’s an integrated story,” she said. “Before the French were in Port Royal in 1605, before the Scottish arrived in 1629, there were thousands of years when this place was occupied by indigenous people and this was a stopping place in the same pathway that takes people on canoe routes in towards Kejimkujik and the other side of the province.”
She said historically it was an important place for the Mi’Kmaq people.
Reach Back in Time
“We have used the opportunity these new exhibits presented to reach back in time and tell that story – really laying a foundation of the story of the Mi’Kmaq people before the Europeans arrived, and telling the story of the relationship to this place,” Stewart said. “And that gives our visitors a sense of what the newcomers experienced when they arrived here in terms of establishing connections and relationships. As you go through the new exhibits, you’ll see that those stories continue to be integrated right through until the present day. So it does give people an opportunity to see how those relationships evolved over time.”
They didn’t just delve into textbooks and archives. They went right to the source. One of the first things Parks Canada did was to meet with elders and staff from the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’Kmaq who visited the site, viewed the old exhibits, and took part in a full-day meeting at which the concept for the new exhibits was presented.
“That was our opportunity to present what we envisioned for the exhibits and get feedback on it from those groups,” Stewart said. “And we did that. We got a full report as a result of those discussions which was extremely helpful for us in moving forward and then we continued the dialogue throughout in terms of getting input from the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’Kmaq.”
She said it gave Parks Canada staff new knowledge.
“It’s allowed us to tell a more complete story in that regard,” she said. “Our project coordinator (Ted Dolan) also worked very closely with representatives from the Acadian community and the African Nova Scotian community to integrate the complex relationships across many cultural communities here.”
Besides experiencing a completely different physical layout, visitors will also have some more hands-on opportunities in the exhibits with fixed tablets in different locations throughout the museum. A Phase 2 in mid-July will allow visitors to rent tablets they can take out onto the grounds to explore the stories in further depth.
“Certainly they will get all the important stories of Fort Anne as part of the existing exhibits and what’s on the walls and what’s in the fix tablets, but for those people who want to delve deeper there’s an opportunity to do that,” Stewart said.
There will be a whole series of exterior interpretive panels with updated old ones and a few new ones to tell some additional stories on the grounds.
“Some of those will have nodes where people can explore those stories in further depth, through something like an augmented reality experience where they can look at a present day setting and using their tablet see the historic equivalent of what that setting would have been -- say in 1726 or something like that,” said Stewart. “So it does give people an opportunity to almost put themselves into an historic context. We have a few of those nodes outside and also some indoors as well.”
There will be stations where kids of all ages can try on some reproduction period clothing, and a discovery room where visitors, particularly young people, will have a chance to explore some of the themes about conservation of places, and understanding and researching the stories they’re telling.
“We’ll be asking visitors to think about why conservation is important, and to think about in their own lives if there was something they would want to conserve that would be of value for a future generation – what that would be, and why that’s important,” said Stewart. “So visitors will have an opportunity to leave their own mark in the museum in digital form by telling the stories of what they think conservation is and what’s important. So we’re trying to get at these stories from a whole bunch of angles.”
She said it’s almost like a little bit of a behind the scenes opportunity for visitors to explore it from a different perspective.
This year there will be some additional enhanced guided programs for a fee if visitors are interested – especially those interested in the Vauban fortifications. And there will also be a white-glove tour.
“Literally put on your white gloves, and it gives you a sense of behind the scenes, and you’ll be able to explore some of the places where we have our curatorial and archival collections in storage,” Stewart said. “We’re really trying to reach out to visitors with completely new experiences that give them some multi-dimensional experience of the site opposed to just reading text on a wall.”
For more information on Fort Anne visit http://pc.gc.ca/en/lhn-nhs/ns/fortanne