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Researching the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site of Canada
  Recherche sur la Forteresse-de-Louisbourg Lieu historique national du Canada




Eric Krause

Historical Records Supervisor,
Fortress of Louisbourg

December 1987

(Fortress of Louisbourg Library
Report Number H F 89)


In December of 1963, the Deputy Minister agreed that the project meant "the partial restoration of the Fortress of Louisbourg done as accurately as, in the opinion of the Minister or of the officer designated by him for this purpose, he shall determine." Given its generality, this statement was not quite the answer which some, like those in Research, were seeking as clarification of the meaning of authenticity. To complicate the issue, in April of 1964, the Minister announced that Louisbourg was no longer a make work project and productivity was of the essence. As a result, his major concern was now whether "we [were] getting full value for money expended."

In response, on 19 June 1964 the Project Engineer issued a report on the progress at Louisbourg "from its inception to date," with a particular emphasis on economics. While he thought that greater value was clearly possible, he also stressed that one ought not to compare the economics of the project with anything else in private industry for the obvious reason that the work at Louisbourg was unique in numerous respects. For one thing, there was the question of the slow pace at which historical and archaeological reports were currently being issued. The reasons were fully justifiable, and while the pace would obviously speed up in the future with the addition of new staff, it nevertheless was an on-going limiting factor with which engineering had to cope. Notwithstanding this and many other similar examples, it was still the general opinion at Louisbourg that the project had achieved full value for the money expended to date.

The debate surrounding the question of value was important in that it focussed attention on those who were feeling "moreorless [sic] on the defensive in attempting to explain the progress of the Project." While Research choose to justify the return on money spent in terms of efficiency and of quantity and quality of information gathered, the Engineering Section elected to defend its expenditures by referring to more traditional material accomplishments. As such, it addressed the processes of infrastructure setup, equipment purchase or building construction. Interestingly, the Engineering Section decided not to defend its case by adding the project's preoccupation with historical authenticity to its list of obstacles retarding productivity. Nor did it voice the opinion of others "who had the feeling on many occasions that historical research was being carried out in Ottawa from an academic approach rather than a restoration approach."

However, it was not long afterwards that the project's resident engineer was pointing out to the Project Manager the costly delays that could occur when striving for historical authenticity. In addition, by January of 1965, the Assistant Deputy Minister was beginning to make it clear that the "Project was never to be uneconomical, and the main thing was to have a $12 million showing for $12 million spent. [In other words,] the Minister now wants a maximum amount of restoration for the money spent." Put another way by the regional director,

I agree with you that, within reasonable financial expenditures, we should be, say, 85% truly accurate and authentic. Anything above that we can properly go to France for the typical and not be censured. I am not prepared to spend say another $100,000.00 to do research and archaeology to make it 86% authentic ...

Ironically, some interpreted the Research Section's exacting discovery process as simply an excuse not to meet original report deadlines. According to the Park Superintendent, John Lunn, however, rigid deadlines were unavoidable, but achievable,

provided we are prepared to accept the premise that it is better to create a Park that is 75% accurate at a price and within a time limit we can afford, rather than create a Park that is 85% accurate at a price and over a length of time we cannot afford.

As such, Lunn thought that the Research Section ought therefore to be more selective and less exhaustive in its work, while geared to the idea of how best to get the most out of the time and resources allocated to it. In a similar vein, it was Ronald Way's view that,

It is simply that we have a mandate for only a partial restoration of Louisbourg. Needless to say, the monies allotted are barely adequate for the approved objective and are completely insufficient to finance a reconstruction geared to the ambitions of the research section.

By 1965 then, the Research Section remained not only the guardian of the historical record but was also now the project's most vocal critic in how 18th century evidence was to be used at Louisbourg for reconstruction and interpretive purposes. As a result, its claim that Research ought to control the pace of the project, was quite spirited at times. Coincidentally, those more concerned with building schedules, and the expenditures of monies and human resources, were becoming increasingly irritated with what they regarded as costly delays caused by the slow receipt of research information.

According to the engineering side of the Department, sometime between 1965 and 1968 it finally became "possible to schedule reconstruction [at Louisbourg] to suit fiscal capability and to undertake "shelf" design projects." In its view, this improvement occurred because the Research Section had finally received permission to increase its size and hence its output. As a result, the need to delay construction because of a lack of historical information was no longer the case. Also contributing to this new state of affairs, in its opinion, were the several architectural consultants which the project had recently engaged.

This view was similar to that of the Superintendent, John Lunn, who in an expansive mood would state:

There is no doubt that the overall aims of the Project would have been better served had it been possible for historical and archaeological research to commence about five years before actual reconstruction .... What could not be fully appreciated at the time was the formidable amount of painstaking research that would be necessary for the degree of accuracy and authenticity that officials in charge of the restoration were bound to insist on .... The "crash" programme necessitated by the crisis in the coal mines made such foresight impossible, however, and the best that could be done in the early stages of the project was to use the newly acquired work force in the construction of training and working facilities for the various types of craft likely to be involved in the restoration ... For this reason the actual work of reconstruction was in fact begun prematurely, but when it was realised how much historical and archaeological research was needed, the programme was modified and the appropriate research staff built up .... It is fair to say that at the present time, historical ... and archaeological ... research into structures is happily a little ahead of construction requirements ....

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