Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Landscape Definitions Making Me Uncomfortable!

The four articles we read for today's public history class definitely challenged my ideas about nature and landscape. Growing up in Alberta, I spent a lot of time camping in the mountains. In the last five years or so my mom and I have been doing at least one backcountry back-packing trip every year. We revel in getting out of the city and enjoying the pristine nature of national parks.

Only now I know that Banff's "pristine nature" isn't quite as pristine as I thought. Trying to reorient my thinking about national parks and landscapes has been rather disconcerting. I don't want to think about Banff as a constructed landscape; I want to think of it was wild and beautiful. In Rebecca Conrad's "Spading Common Ground," she argues, "Purging the landscape of the tangible evidence of human activity not only deprives us of important information as we seek to learn more; such destruction also hinders our abilities to communicate complex, ambiguous, important stories to wider audiences." On an intellectual level, I agree with her; but my heart is kicking and screaming at the idea!

I'm surprised that these four articles did not discuss the possibility of a general public's rejection of these new ideas about landscape. While the articles provided suggestions for how to incorporate these new ideas about landscapes into museum exhibits, they didn't stop to consider whether or not people want to think about landscapes in this way. Although I understand the arguments behind these ideas, it still makes me uncomfortable to have to think of my beloved national parks as made up nature. I wonder if museum exhibits incorporating these ideas encouter any opposition from individuals who share my preconceptions on this issue.

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