Interpreting [un]Natural Landscapes

When we think of heritage prerservation we often turn our attention to the structural reminentsof the pasts,the buildings (specifically those with great architectural features) that refelct the lives of past peoples. David Glassberg and Rebecca Conrad are two historians that advocate the belief expressed by J.B. Jackson that “landscape is histiory made visable.”

Glassberg demonstrates that almost all landscapes have been influenced in some manner by human activity, and calls to attention the fact that even places that are “preserved” for their natural beauty are not deviod of human imprints. National parks, in both Canada and the United States, carefully monitor the human and non human interactions that occur in their parks, they carefully preserve wildlife in a human controlled environment (playing god as it were). For exaple, Algonquin Park always a popular destination for campers, was once dotted with expensive challets and hotels. The impact of this on the park and their subsequent decline is an interesting subject for envirfonmentalists and historians a like, old railway beds remain as permenant features of a landscape that owasoncea playground for the rich and famous.

Historians can and should be involved in the interpretation of such [un]natural landscapes. Conrad argues that what a public historian can add to the story of such spaces is the aspect of human interaction. This, she argues, can be used to create dialogue about the memories and meanings of landscapes, by those who continue to see value, or lack there of in “natural” landscapes.

Investigating natural spaces from a historian’s view point can add many layers of meaning to spaces otherwise thought only important for their natural beauty. It can also help us to understand at national, regional and local levels the significance of the spaces around us.

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