Accepted Paper:

"I don't want my town to become a spectacle": planning for the future in a formerly urban place  


Pamela Stern (Simon Fraser University)
Peter Hall

Paper short abstract:

Based on ethnographic research in a Canadian former mining town -- Cobalt, Ontario -- we discuss history museums as sites where citizens can contain and restrict grand heritage tourism development schemes and put forth an imagined urban future.

Paper long abstract:

Cobalt, Ontario (pop. c. 1100) has four history museums. The museums, created at different times and by different constituencies, reflect citizens' ongoing efforts to imagine and bring about an urban future in this former mining place. Cobalt's no longer operating silver mines remain a source of pride and site of citizenship attachment for residents. Over the last 50 years, residents and officials have engaged in multiple attempts to establish the town as a mining heritage tourism destination and/or to re-establish mining. While the museums are implicated in both aspirations, we argue that the museums work to situate the memory-work of local history within discrete spaces. The four museums respectively, tell the story of Cobalt's place in the Canadian nation through the armed forces, relate the history and practices of mining, celebrate the town's volunteer fire department, and present a popular history of the town. As such, the museums have been recruited to support the successive tourism and heritage development efforts. However, the museums sit uncomfortably within grander schemes to remake the town as tourist site. Indeed, we argue that the museums serve as tactics, in de Certeau's terms, to contain and restrict tourism oriented development. As spaces where residents record and report their histories, the museums serve as statements about what the town should and should not be in future.

Panel WIM-WHF05
Making and remaking the city / Faire et refaire la ville