Returning the Voices to Kouchibouguac National Park – Le retour des voix au parc national Kouchibouguac
With the support of CEREV, during the week of 7 May 2012, Philip Lichti, a Montreal media artist, and I presented a beta version of an iPhone app at the 80th annual Congrès de l’Acfas (Association francophone pour le savoir) which was held at the Palais de congrès de Montréal. The largest multidisciplinary congress of scholarly research in the French-speaking world, Acfas provided us with the opportunity to engage over 100 delegates with our project that seeks to allow the voices of residents, removed from their lands to allow the creation of a national park, to return home.
In 1969 the Canadian and New Brunswick governments agreed to create Kouchibouguac National Park along the east coast of the province. At the time, establishment of a national park required removing the people who resided there, in the belief that nature should be exhibited to visitors without signs of any human presence. In this case, over 1200 people needed to be expropriated, most of whom were Acadians, a people with a strong memory of having been removed once before. This memory of the grand dérangement helped fuel large-scale resistance, and one of the resisters still remains on “his” land forty years later. The Kouchibouguac story has also provided the inspiration for a wide array of cultural creations.
Most of these creations were designed to explain the injustice of this forced removal, but few provided any sense of what life was like for the residents before their removal. Our project seeks to present the stories of some of those residents who lived along a trail that leads from the site of the Catholic church in the former community of Claire-Fontaine and that ends at the site of the school in Fontaine, where the stairs can still be found in the woods–one of the few physical remnants of a world that was destroyed. When launched, our iPhone app will allow visitors to the park to walk this trail, along the way–with the help of GPS technology–hearing on their headphones the voices of the residents on the very lands where they once lived and seeing images on their phones of what the landscape looked like prior to 1969.
For Acfas, we presented an early version of this app, on a large touch-screen monitor that was provided by CEREV. Visitors to our installation were able to tap on the screen to activate media connected with a number of sites along our trail.
The app should be launched later in 2012, along with a website which will allow those unable to make the trip to New Brunswick to have something of the same experience.
Post by Ronald Rudin
Trudeau Foundation Fellow
Professor of History