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Regenerating Cultural Identity through Industrial Heritage Tourism: Visitor Attitudes, Entertainment and the Search for Authenticity at Mills, Mines and Museums of Maritime Canada

London Journal of Canadian Studies


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      This essay analyses visitor attitudes to industrial heritage at a variety of former industrial sites, ranging from former coal mines, shipbuilding yards and steampowered mills to a reconstructed waterfront. In addition, a comprehensive industrial museum provided a venue for further critique of the means by which the industrial past contributes to a regeneration of cultural identity in Maritime Canada. The range of former industrial sites reflects the multiple narratives of deindustrialisation affecting the Canadian provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island for much of the twentieth century while visitor responses to a detailed survey indicate that a focus on industrial heritage is a highly-valued component of respondents’ understanding of the region’s cultural identity. The essay notes, however, that this representation of cultural identity is highly problematic and replete with contradictions, most notably between respondents’ desires for authenticity and the necessarily sanitised landscapes required for cultural tourism. Similarly, designers and managers of industrial heritage may be motivated to construct heritage landscapes which prioritise entertainment and spectacle and down play significant environmental, social and political elements of the former industry. From these examples in Maritime Canada, it is clear that visitors encounter significant complexity in their experience of the industrial past. This complexity provides both opportunity and challenge in the use of the industrial past as a means of cultural regeneration in the region.

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