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Fortress of Louisbourg 2010 Draft Management Plan
Eric R. Krause Response
Krause House Info-Research Solutions
January 10, 2010
Revised September 12, 2011
WHO AM I
In February of 1997, after 25 years of a most satisfying service (1972-1997) as an historian, and the first and last Historical Records Supervisor at the Fortress of Louisbourg, and 28 years in all with Parks Canada that included an Ottawa posting, I took early retirement, for a variety of reasons, none relating to health. The novice core of my Louisbourg term was an exciting period and a great learning experience and one that a dedicated staff of many at the Fortress saw less than as a job than as a vocation or calling. For how else can one explain the passion in the writings of those former employees who have written about the place.
From 1997 until 2009, I was a research associate with the Louisbourg Institute (I was also a founding member) and prime webmaster for its website. During my retreat, I have had two concerns. The first was to promote the Fortress, to disseminate some of its resources for public use, and to write related historical reports. The second was my belief that the luster that was once Louisbourg - its unique radiance of 18th-century beauty, its excellence, its merit, and its distinction were evaporating before my very eyes - and neither was being re-established (nay sometimes not even defended) nor replaced by something else unique and invigorating, whatever that might have been. In other words, Louisbourg, to me, was now biding its time, hoping for another opportunity like 1961 to come along rather than being truly innovative in its senior years.
In this vein, I poo-pooed a critical number of strategies of the 2001 Management Plan even as I was being a loyal member of the team, and perhaps will again depreciate such strategies, in the 2010 plan, of which I have not been a part. Time will tell when I see them.
Summary of the 2010 Draft Proposals
Proposed Direction for the Site
Below are the key approaches that have been identified to achieve the broad direction for protection,
visitor experience and public education for FOLNHS over the next 10-15 years.
In our proposed vision, we state:
"Even as we hike through the ruins of battlefields, Louisbourg is a place that we visit not only for its past, but for its present.''
By this, we mean that the Fortress of Louisbourg is a window into the past that helps us understand, protect and present these resources, we will continue to focus on the Fortress of Louisbourg's long-standing and recognised tradition of quality and innovation in archaeological, historical, and material culture research, contributing to experiential learning opportunities and innovation in visitor experience programmes. We will also continue to develop and maintain strong collaborations with external institutions and organisations to sustain this tradition of innovation.
In our proposed vision, we state:
"Visiting the fortress of Louisbourg is one of the reason reasons we chose to visit Nova Scotia, and everyone we encounter is working together to make our visit enjoyable. It is clear that a spirit of community is present between the town of Louisbourg and the historic site, as the past and the present work together to help Louisbourg host the world."
In order to achieve this vision, we will consider how the Fortress of Louisbourg can work with others to make Louisbourg a year-round destination. By collaborating with local community, industries and others we can achieve our common goals of protecting, managing and experiencing the Fortress and increasing visitation to this area throughout all seasons.
In our proposed vision, we state:
"Like the site itself, the harbour is very much alive, with boats shuttling visitors between the modern town and the historic site, and fishermen going about their business as they have for more than two centuries."
We recognise that the physical features and natural resources of Louisbourg harbour have brought and kept people here for centuries. Whether it is the thrill of being on the ocean, or exploring the ship wrecks from historic battles, or approaching the Fortress in the same way as past discoverers, we are proposing the revitalization of the Fortress of Louisbourg waterfront, to reflect an authentic view of the Fortress, as well as to provide opportunities for visitors to experience this magnificent harbour.
While the 2010 management plan addresses three key concerns, that of protection, visitor experience and public education, for the purposes of this paper I will keep only the following in mind:
The Parks Canada
The twin messages of visitor experience and public education (i.e. of heritage presentation and of communication), and only where experience and education actually meet, be that in ways overt or subtle.
"Like a fog on the harbour, the mists of time roll back and
the Fortress of Louisbourg stands proudly before us.
Its very scale gives us pause; no mere fort, our destination is a fortified town, alive with citizens, soldiers and sailors from the four corners of the world."
[2010 Management Plan Draft]
Between 1961 and 1982, a seminal era - a Great Experiment - in the history of the Fortress as a fortified 18th-century town, and as important in its own way as was the period 1713-1758 in its, began and ended. While the 2010 statement above rests on the laurels of this second influential period, and has benefited from its achievements as a partially reconstructed townsite, unfortunately for some time now, including even during the writing of the 2001 Management Plan (which, to my chagrin, ignored this obvious decline), the Fortress, through no fault of its own but rather by directives from above, has been forced to slowly squander key experience and educational successes that had arisen out of this creative period. Clearly, on its present course, its decline to non-seminal thinking will be complete. By complete, I mean when the Government and the People of Canada no longer regard the Fortress as unique but rather as but one of many in a family "presenting an important part of Canada's history." One of many "to help connect Canadians through a greater understanding of their heritage" for sure may be bureaucratically and financially soothing. Arguably, one of many may even serve as a heritage tourism anchor. But distinct or unique (a "Jewel" of or in the crown of ... in Parks Canada Lingo), assuredly it is not. Certainly neither is it highly appealing nor particularly interesting to motivate a visit, let alone a return visit, to a remote place more suitable in the 18th century to the harvest of cod than in the 21st to a heightened visitor and public education experience.
One measure of the success of a programme that receives taxpayer support is its popularity. In the instance of a heritage tourism destination, visitation numbers, rightly or wrongly, is the measure often cited:
|1958:||50,000 [Special Event: Bicentenary Celebrations]|
|1968:||195,000 (200,000 - Near)|
|1970:||400,000 (101,541 admission tickets)|
|1995-1996:||165,181 [Special Event: Encampment]|
|1999-2000:||137,329 (135,563) [Special Event: Encampment - Attracted an additional 6,000 visitors]|
|2004-2005:||103,112 (103,105) (104,000)|
|2006-2007||97,225 (97,211) [Special Event: Encampment]|
|2008-2009:||98,456 (92,961) [Special Event: 250th anniversary celebrations and Encampment]|
Now, I am not arguing here for any repeat of a back to the
future, of a supposedly golden 1961-1982 period that as well had many problems of its
own, most unforeseen in 1961, but oh so clear by 1982. No, the strategic actions required, while
building where it can upon what came before 1982, or even before 1961, must move
the Fortress into a new seminal era that newly excites the public while drawing
government support (as reflected in an approved, enlightened business plan).
COMMENT UPON THE PLANNING PROCESS
Prior to my retirement, as I have mentioned, I too was a member of a Fortress management planning team. That team (as the present 2010 one I assume) went on to produce a series of in-depth issue analysis and background papers (1993-1995) that formed the basis of the draft report of October 1998, and of the final report of June, 2001. They were:
I. Animation / Legislation
II. Archaeological Collection Paper (Final)
III. Boundaries Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site Issue Analysis Paper
IV. Cultural & Natural Resource Protection & Public Safety At Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site
V. Cultural Landscapes Fortress Louisbourg NHS Issue Paper
VI. Curatorial Collections Fortress of Louisbourg NHS Position Paper
VII. Education / Extension
VIII. Exhibits Programme at Louisbourg Issue Paper
IX. Fleur-de-Lis Trail Issue Analysis Paper
X. Future Service Offer in the Reconstructed Townsite
XI. Kennington Cove Road Issue Analysis
XII. Level of Visitor Services in The Non-Constructed Areas Of The Site
XIII. Fortress of Louisbourg NHS - Management Planning Issue Analysis And Background Paper: Fortress of Louisbourg Archives / Library Collection
XIV. Parks Canada's Position Respecting Louisbourg's Marine Or Submerged Cultural Resources
XV. Mineral Reserve Area - Lot 3 Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site Issue Analysis Paper
XVI. Multicultural Interpretation Issue Paper Fortress of Louisbourg NHS
XVII. Natural Resource Protection and Ecosystem Management at Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site
XVIII. Reproduction Costumes at Fortress of Louisbourg NHS
XIX. Road Closures Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site
XX. Should We Keep The Louisbourg 1744 Interpretive Focus?
XXI. Special Events Fortress of Louisbourg National Hsitoric Site
XXII. Values of the Reconstruction Fortress of Louisbourg NHS
XXIII. Water Supply To The Reconstruction: Fire Suppression & Sanitary
XXIV. Havenside Road Issue Analysis
One issue of contention that I had at the time with management, among other things concerning this planning document, was its refusal to release these studies to the public even as it sought ideas from that same community.
Apparently, given that the present plan "will be completed this winter, and will be tabled for approval in the House of Commons in 2010," once again this error in judgment will be repeated. Why? The cyclical requirements of a business plan, of a management plan update, and of a priority review are fine, but if they generate the failed same-old, same-old only dressed up in different clothes, this is non-seminal thinking. The danger here is a Fortress of Louisbourg fated to suffer a period of mediocrity reminiscent of the fate of "Old Town" which began with the removal of the garrison in 1768 - when a "decayed city ... going to ruin," to Halifax, and ending as a death knell in the year 1784 with the establishment of Sydney as the new capital.
The point here is: first mediocrity, then who cares, then good riddance, and a desire that Louisbourg never rise again in any new unique way, and, in particular, never ever as a pristine, partial reconstruction as a "symbol of Canada's identity."
As asserted earlier, certain strategic actions are urgently required now. Not later, but immediately to reverse Louisbourg's morph from its life of second-chance glory back again into one of minor significance (1768-1961). Of course, unlike then, the Fortress of Louisbourg is now properly commemorated, but, nevertheless, having lost its draw as a place of visitor experience and public education, it would now be but one within a Parks family of many.
COMMENT UPON THE THREE 2010 KEY APPROACHES
To be frank, I find the vision of this and of the 2001 management plan to be no different, other than in the specific wording and in the approach groupings:
2001 Vision Statement:
Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site of Canada
will be a centre of excellence in ensuring commemorative integrity and
in meeting its stewardship responsibilities for the protection of
2001 Level 1 and 2 Interpreted Messages:
(i) Louisbourg in the Anglo-French Rivalry in North America, 1713-68
(ii) Louisbourg: Fishing Centre and Commercial Entrepot, 1713-58
(iii) Louisbourg: The Capital of Ile Royale, 1719-1758
Fine though the 2010 vision is, as it was in 2001, and, yawn, will no doubt be equally supported by the public, rather it's the actual strategic actions taken or not taken where the rubber will meet the road. Between 1961 and 1982, and then afterwards, management would assume a multiplicity of key approaches, each without reproach, and each achieving some degree of success. For example, while respecting authenticity at Louisbourg was, and continues to be, an admirable approach, in practice it was more often divisive than unifying, and an ideal to be strived for rather than a goal to be achieved. However, in those days, once a particular strategic action elicited agreement (e.g. often through a structural or period presentation committee process), most learned to live with the decision, and even endure subsequent amendments until that strategy was so watered down as to be virtually unrecognizable and utterly meaningless.
SOME THOUGHTS CONCERNING POSSIBLE STRATEGIC ACTIONS WITHIN THE THREE KEY APPROACHES
WHERE EXPERIENCE AND EDUCATION ACTUALLY MEET, BE THAT IN WAYS OVERT OR SUBTLE
Recapitilization Programme for the Reconstructed Buildings, Fortifications, Associated Features, and Landscapes
Some of the current strategic actions at the Fortress clearly dumb down, that is over-simplify visitor experience and public education, instead of enhancing it. For example, rather than enthusiastically explaining a now visible post 1961 Quay Wall constructed with modern concrete and once "replicated" as a period wall with a covering plank sheathing later storm shredded, the "eyesore" is for all intents and purposes ignored by the Fortress, generally unquestioned by an ill-informed public, and presto, no eyesore. Rather than having an overt "teaching moment," the choice was, and continues to be, instead a missed opportunity. Not only has there been a financial repair saving here - bad enough and a business plan issue - but, worse, there has been the dumbing down of paying customers (visitors) which an enlightened strategic action would simply not have tolerated whenever experience and education actually met.
Due to budgetary restraint, and contrary to the stated 2001 goal of completing the recapitilization programme, the reconstructed assets of Louisbourg are now routinely allowed to deteriorate (whether seen or unseen) long after their recapitilization threshold has actually passed. Indeed, in the plan of 2001 their fate was destined when it became clear that no way would the Government of Canada ever consider them worthy for designation as classified heritage buildings by the Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office (FHBRO). Without this designation, the preservation of these assets was doomed.
At any rate, while this period of disrepair can and must present a "teaching moment," they can and must be regarded within another strategic action where an asset may be allowed to disappear as a physical entity. Here, in its extreme, I mean, tear it down, or get rid of it! But it must also be allowed to rise again. How so?
Tons of research, sweat, and dollars produced these doomed assets in question, and this ought not to be forgotten. Rather their footprint should be commemorated in many innovative ways: through widely-circulated, freely-distributed "sexy" publications, and through modern on-site and off-site exhibiting techniques based on new and old technologies, so detailed that if one wanted to, one could once again replicate the reconstruction to its former self, whether physically or otherwise.
"Parks across Canada – Canada’s Parks Day, an annual July celebration showcasing the nature and history of the country" annually attracts I believe the biggest crowd of the year. This is a strategy that actually works.
Likewise, there should be, say an annual Monday or Friday in September set aside for a "Fortress of Louisbourg Day" specifically geared with special events (even pre-visit contests, such as for a student to serve as Governor for the day, etc, - the possibilities are endless) just for schools across Canada, and it must be free of charge, as both a visitor experience and public education strategy. In turn, visiting schools would go away with a teacher's package to encourage a day where the students might discuss what they had seen and learned.
Among other obvious reasons to do this, these young people might also later form the core of a future rescue team determining a new seminal approach for interpreting the Fortress when any existing direction becomes clearly outdated.
My gosh - I think that the two Johns - Lunn and Fortier - would be spinning in their graves given the lack-luster and miss-directed efforts here over the years, particularly in this extended age of persuasion. Their personalities, that is the ego and hubris of Dr. Lunn (I worked with him, and so I can say this in admiration) and the quiet, youthful smiley intellect and tenaciousness of Fortier (a great friend), alone were legendary and as marketing strategies they worked. Neither missed an opportunity to have their face before the public. And neither missed an opportunity to place an event before the world, no matter how mundane to us mere mortals. In other words, they were always out there, and always aware that a picture was worth a thousands words, be that an archaeological find or how a thread of silk became a costume.
But where has the Fortress been for some time now in the public eye, I ask? Rather than an expensive Encampment 2008 event (an excellent idea in its own right) which barely raised an eyebrow as a marketing success, let's go with a "Face of Louisbourg" person whose only job is to promote (spin) the Fortress, take questions, and provide answers, whether in the local or "away" media or on the web. This would be a serious full-time position, and not your standard Town Crier in costume though in costume would be an option whenever required.
In this scheme, archaeology (both land-based and underwater) would again play a major role each year, each and every day, as a backdrop, spun as it should be, as an endeavour of a great potential discovery, perhaps one even as a visitor looked on - an "eureka I have found it moment" always being a possibility. Here a concern with where to store newly found artifacts and maintain them in secure and stable conditions has become an excuse not to undertake any major excavations others than those of a rescue nature. This protective storage issue must be resolved for as a marketing strategy, to increase visitations, nothing excites the public as much as a dig or a dive. And nothing makes archaeology more interesting when routinely commented upon by the famous, particularly one with a Louisbourg connection. Here come to immediate mind the current Mayor of London (a former Mayor presented Sir William Pepperell visiting England with a beautiful service of plate), or by an Alex Storm of Chameau fame, each in conversation with an enthusiastic "Face of Louisbourg" as moderator.
Period and Modern Visitor On-Site Services
Bite the bullet. Freely mix period experiences with modern services without dogmatic guilt, but instead with an innovative, professional flair. An informed public will eat it up, not throw it up in your face. For example, an affordable on-site food court ought not to be considered in competition with expensive day-light or candle-light period experiences showcasing both upper and lower class culinary practices. Both have their educational place, particularly when contrasted each against the other.
The Incorporation of Federal Government Cost-Recovery and Revenue Generation Policies
"A new approach to revenue-cost management has been developed for Parks Canada. Treasury Board policy provides guidance in the area of cost recovery and user fees. The basic concept is to have individuals pay for services and benefits that they receive. Where all Canadians benefit, these services and benefits are financed through appropriations. In line with this concept, Parks Canada charges a nominal fee for entry to the site and some basic services. All services that go beyond the basic level have a higher fee in line with the personal benefit received. In future, revenue generated at the Site will remain at the Site to help pay for the services offered." [2001 Management Plan]
This useless concentration of valuable time on cost-recovery and revenue generation as a justification for Louisbourg's existence has been foolish and outright counter-productive. Often when introduced, user charges have produced a mind-set where nickling and diming takes precedence over common sense. For example, rather than believing in giving away knowledge during a communication age, some actually want to charge for it. In turn, this strategy places a brake on its dissemination, and by extension, a drag on the public charity of a public institution created and maintained with tax-payers money. And here upon "unique" visitor experience and public education resources that have absolutely no chance of ever turning a profit! Certainly, government should aim for dollar efficiencies, but a broad "Treasury Board policy" that "emphasizes" that "user charges can bring benefits beyond the revenue they generate" should have little meaning in the case of Louisbourg.
The summer of 1744 has now outlived its usefulness as an umbrella restriction on animation, costume use, reconstruction dates, and the like, but as a chapter of many chapters folded into the commemorative story of Louisbourg it should remain as an important interpretive tool. So, rather than focusing visitor experience and public education upon a particular date or summer, instead each year the Fortress should adopt a different theme and instill a new appreciation of the Fortress rather than regurgitating the same-old over and over again. For example, in 2013, the theme all summer long ought to be the founding of Louisbourg, with the existing assets but a backdrop.
As a theme, Encampments 95, 99, and 06, as well as the 08 250th anniversary celebrations (that included yet another Encampment) actually skillfully mixed and interpreted apples and oranges at will without any endangerment to the "commemorative integrity" of the site within a summer of 1744 backdrop. Unfortunately, the actual Encampment periods were but of a short duration, and the Anniversary celebrations, ideally suited as an all-summer event, actually were not, and excepting for the encampment component was barely an enhanced 1744 event.
Louisbourg often mouths the objective that its research collections and information be made accessible to the public, but in actuality this goal has never been a priority as a strategic action.
So, finally declare a "Louisbourg Centre of 18th-Century Research and Genealogical Inquiry," and make it a large CAP site with high-speed for local and away visitors. Move the physical and digital collection down to the historic site and make it readily available and without charge (e.g. knowledge retrieval user fees are never acceptable). Meld it into the other collections (archaeology, furnishings, etc.) as a research enhancement.
A web presence independent of the Fortress of Louisbourg bureaucracy, or any bureaucracy, is essential to ensure efficiencies.
In 1995, Bill O'Shea and I of the Louisbourg Institute oversaw the creation of a presence on the web utilizing the backbone of UCCB (now CBU). Subsequently I (Krause-House Info-Research Solutions) became its webmaster and continued as such until 2009, when the Louisbourg Institute decided to partner more closely with CBU in its design and operation. At the same time, the Fortress of Louisbourg has decided to strike out on its own. I believe in both instances this to be a mistake, based on my experience with similar institutional computerization initiatives at Louisbourg during the 1980s and 1990s since such undertakings never seem to have resources dedicated only to a web strategy outside the promotion of their own bureaucracies (i.e. of themselves). As a result, my view is that neither institution will ever devote the required time and subsequent updating in the area of visitor and education experience to produce anything of substance of meaningful use to the public. In the instance of CBU, it (i.e. a Fortress-CBU team) is already picking and choosing what to place on a new server, and to date nine months have now passed without any new web presence or any update to the old. In my experience, this slowness is but indicative of what the path in the future will be.
Thus, what might be the rational behind this strategic action completely escapes me.
On the other hand, Krause House Info-Research Solutions, in its mostly voluntary rather than profit mode (see its mandate at http://www.krausehouse.ca/krause/ ) has a proven track record since 1997 in developing a true "Louisbourg" research site by a retired historian and "archivist" who actually knows what the public requires. He, and others after him, has and no doubt will have the time and interest in continuing to do so for many years to come.
Incidentally, the payment to the Krause Company in each and every year since 1997 has remained unchanged, at $1,800.00, a real 12-year bargain to say the least for such a broad service.
The active recruitment of volunteers interested in Louisbourg, but wanting to "do their own thing," must be openly encouraged. It must be a supported programme separate from that operated by "The Fortress of Louisbourg Volunteers," an organization which more formally, and restrictive, is helping the Fortress to achieve specific interpretive objectives. For example, that there is a good chance that amateur genealogists, military buffs, cooks, architects, historians, etc. would eagerly seek inclusion in any such category would certainly be a safe bet to take.
And hopefully so. For example, the reader might want to keep in mind that the Fortress today might benefit greatly from another Albert Almon (1872-1960) who was not only a self-taught plumber, owning his own business in Glace Bay, but also an amateur historian with an unusual interest in Louisbourg.
"By 1940 the Parks Branch had acquired additional land, and Louisbourg became known officially as the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Park, following a campaign by Cape Breton historical enthusiast, Albert Almon." [2001 Management Plan]
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