What to do with a site like Vimy?

As impressive as the site and memorial are, I can’t help thinking more could be done. The present visitor’s center looks a bit like a jazzed up school portable from the exterior, especially the rear. Perhaps it is ‘temporary’ or perhaps it sits up on stilts as a matter of sensitivity to the site. In either case it struggles to live up to the dignity of the site. Then there are the interpretive materials, which are reasonably meagre, at least for those with more than a passing interest. The presentations within the centre are good enough for a casual visitor seeking (or willing to tolerate) only the broadest possible picture of Canada’s involvement in the war and of the battle. Likewise, the site tours are excellent, as far as they go, but I can’t help thinking they leave the slightly more curious/patient//knowledgeable visitor wanting more, which makes the self-guiding materials seem all the poorer. Some commercially published histories and guidebooks are available for sale on site, but surely there could be a more elaborate official site guide available for a small charge (cost of production). While on the subject, why aren’t there mobile apps for sites like Vimy, Newfoundland Memorial Park, and Hill 62? And why aren’t there better digital reconstructions of the sites and actions on offer in the interpretive centres? As useful as the one of the Newfoundland Regiment’s attack (in the Newfoundland Memorial Park) is, the graphics scream 1995. If not for the subject matter they would be laughable.

If you feel your dudgeon heightening at this criticism of a sacred site where our nation was born (more on this orthodoxy in a later post), take a deep breath. I’m not advocating a disneyfied theme-park, just a more elaborate, up-to-date, and differentiated set of interpretive offerings, which take advantage of new technologies and the most recent research. Probably too much to ask in an age of retrenchment.

About cahagerman

Dad, husband, writer, historian, recovering academic, and the Consulting Professor.
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