Tuesday, July 3, 2012

point pleasant podcast

history is getting a new voice at point pleasant park this summer. a podcast program the city has put together allows smartphone users to hear the park's story from the voices of those who know it best. you can hear it at the soundcloud page or read it online here.

as someone deeply immersed in halifax's early history for my cornwallis bio, i found the change to the mi'kmaq reading quite interesting.

my article for Bedford/Southender Magazine is below.

By Jon Tattrie

The next time you stroll in Point Pleasant Park, you can tuck 13,000 years of human history in your pocket. The Point Pleasant podcast launched this summer tells the tales of the trees, from the land’s role as an ancient Mi’kmaq homeland to a British war base to a forgotten childhood backyard.

Deanna Wilmshurst, a public affairs coordinator for the project, says all of the stories are live on Soundcloud and the map and transcripts are at PointPleasantPark.ca. Visitors can listen to them at home, or those with smart phones can take a photo of the QR code on the relevant kiosk or tour marker. She hopes it will eventually be on iTunes so people can download it before heading out.

Each podcast has a different narrator and runs less than five minutes. “We wanted it to tell a story and to have people with a tie to the sites or the park tell the stories themselves,” Wilmshurst explains.

The kiosks also show a map of the park and have a small display case offering a glimpse into the history of the area, like the Black Rock Beach kiosk pointing to its old role as a summer getaway.
Wilmshurst says her team looked for curious locations, or interesting stories. 

“A site like Martello Tower is obvious,” she says, but there are other locations that currently offer more questions than answers, like Purcell’s Landing on the Northwest Arm. “Why is it called that? There is a huge story behind that,” she says. “For over 100 years there was a ferry service across the arm.”

The oldest history, the Mi’kmaq Cultural Site, starts with drumming and a few words in Mi’kmaq. An older version of the script found on the park’s website focused on the Mi’kmaq response to the British invasion in 1749. “The place where you are, where you are building dwellings, where you are now building a fort, where you want, as it were, to enthrone yourself, this land of which you wish to make yourself now absolute master, this land belongs to me,” it read, quoting a letter from Mi’kmaq elders after Cornwallis landed. It also shed light on a number of unmarked graves for Mi’kmaq warriors who died and were buried in the land later turned into a park.

The podcast version instead focuses on later “peace and friendship” treaties between the two people and their “complex and unique” relationship, leaving out the Mi’kmaq-British war that defined early Halifax.

A fuller account is given of the European struggles in the area, with detailed histories of the Point Pleasant, Cambridge, Chain Rock and Northwest Arm batteries, the Prince of Wales (Martello) Tower, Fort Ogilvie, and the Bonaventure and Sailor’s memorials.

Muriel Griswold (née Fripps) grew up in the superintendent’s lodge at the entrance to the park. She narrates the first tour marker, Point Pleasant Park Lodge and Quarry Park. “For me, that was one of the most special ones. Here she is in her 90s, remembering living in the park. She had pictures of herself roller-skating on top of Martello Tower,” Wilmshurst says. “It really makes it unique.”

Janet Kitz, author of a book on the park, reads the introduction, and another section is read by a man who has worked in the park for 30 years. A retired admiral narrates the naval sites.

Some of the park’s modern history is explored. Hurricane Juan smashed the woods in 2003 and put it out of action for a year. When it reopened, park staff left one area untouched. The Hurricane Juan Demonstration Forest shows how the woods would naturally recover.

The conversational tone to the podcasts aims to make it an intimate experience, as though you happened to run into the person while enjoying the park. HRM is putting all the information, including transcripts, online with an interactive map so people around the world can learn about the park for research or curiosity.

The project has been four years in the making, and Wilmshurst has been working on it since 2011. HRM did it internally, meaning it took time to get it right, but they now have the skills in place for more podcast programs. There are no hard plans for future sites, but staff are considering locations like Sir Sanford Fleming Park or Hemlock Ravine.

“It’s a really important piece of our history, a piece of who we are,” Wilmshurst says.


Factbox: Sites with podcasts:
Farm and Summer House
Fort Ogilvie
Bonaventure Memorial
Point Pleasant Battery
Sailor’s Memorial
Northwest Arm Battery
Purcell’s Landing
Hurricane Juan Demonstration Forest
Cambridge Battery
Mi’kmaq Cultural Site
Chain Rock Battery
Point Pleasant Park Lodge and Quarry Pond
Prince of Wales Tower
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