Nature, Place and Story

Rethinking Historical Sites in Canada

Reviewed by Jessica Knapp

Posted January 16, 2020

In Nature, Place, and Story, environmental historian Claire Campbell reframes the histories of National Historic Sites in Canada by shift ing the focus from the nation-building narrative Canadians are used to seeing at these sites. In emphasizing the relationship between humans and the natural environment, she reminds readers that historic sites are not meant to be islands of time or space, or a “break from the everyday” (in the words of Parks Canada), but, instead, “a mirror to our every day.”

Campbell, a Canadian historian working as an associate professor at Bucknell University in Philadelphia, notes that many museums and historic sites have failed to contextualize the environment in which they are situated.

Within her book, Campbell considers five well-known sites: Newfoundland and Labrador’s L’Anse aux Meadows, Nova Scotia’s Grand-Pré, Ontario’s Fort William, Manitoba’s The Forks of the Red and Assiniboine rivers, and Alberta’s Bar U Ranch. In doing so, she presents histories that incorporate the settler relationship with Indigenous lands and peoples while emphasizing what can be learned from considering the environment.

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This article originally appeared in the February-March 2020 issue of Canada’s History.

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