How do we know a place? How do we know this place? Places are the product of the accumulated actions of both nature and people. In order for one generation to understand their place in the landscape they depend on others to leave footprints. These footprints or markers can take many forms - the buildings and other material artifacts that supported life in the past provide one source of evidence. Letters, diaries, account books, maps, photographs, civil records, archival records of all kinds provide sources that allow us to reconstruct the lives and actions of those who went before us.
This virtual exhibition grows almost entirely out of archival records held by the Mount Allison University Archives. Mount Allison was founded in 1839 as a Methodist Academy. Long a prominent part of the local community, Mount Allison has received many family and business records contributed by individuals and groups anxious to see them preserved as evidence of a shared past. The records reflect life in the Tantramar area which surrounds Sackville, New Brunswick. They are mainly English language documents so this virtual exhibition can only lightly touch on the presence in the area of aboriginal people and Acadian settlement. Some topics that might be expected to be included, such as the Seige of Fort Beausejour, the Eddy Rebellion, the Chignecto Ship Railway, are omitted because there is little interpretive evidence in the archives, and we have chosen to focus on the nature of agricultural life in this remarkable environment. Those looking for information on the subjects mentioned should visit other archives, such as the Centre d’études acadiennes at l’Université de Moncton, the New Brunswick Museum Archives, the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick or the University of New Brunswick Archives and Special Collections.
Marshland focuses on the human exploitation of the Tantramar area which produced agricultural patterns that reflected the opportunities and challenges of a northern coastal salt marsh environment. In this sense both community institutions and individuals had to develop specialized land management approaches different from those in other locations. Selective interpretive notes are provided to help the viewer understand these patterns and this place. All archival records are accompanied by archival descriptions.
Ordinary people produced these records as they lived their lives in this place. Now let them tell you their story. Welcome to Marshland.
it is only a matter of time
given one high tide
and the land will shake loose
clearing out the silt's century
it has all gone, but will come back
in old log books, accounts of companies
in the sun's memory of slips
shouts and ropes licking the wind
- Douglas Lochhead, Dykelands