We become what we advertise ourselves to be…

From an essay by Arjen Oosterman in issue #22 of Volume magazine:

Although tourism isn’t the subject of this issue, the impact it has on everyone’s image and understanding of the city is. This promotional and commercial image of the city, this image for an external world, tends to become a self-image – internalized, one could say. And it is the implied simplification that is most disadvantageous, not so say dangerous. Promotional image becomes ideal, ideal becomes program. A city cannot afford to reduce its complexity to a tagline.

See also Walk & Sea Charlottetown.


Gordie's picture
Gordie on April 25, 2010 - 16:05

Having just finished _Mother Night_ by Kurt Vonnegut, this rings true of a quote that I thought was particularly insightful: “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”

Ann Thurlow's picture
Ann Thurlow on April 26, 2010 - 14:33

Don’t get it. What’s wrong with having historic streets, music, trees and nice places to eat?

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on April 26, 2010 - 19:32

No issue with streets, music, trees, eats.

But the longer we promote ourselves as being culturally trapped in the 1864-1910 period, the longer we’ll actually be trapped in the 1864-1910 cultural period.

Anne, Confederation, etc. are fine and all, but there comes a time when they’re holding us back more than their propelling us ahead.

Rob Lantz's picture
Rob Lantz on April 26, 2010 - 20:36

TCI is currently undertaking a strategic planning exercise of sorts. Councillors were given an opportunity to comment on various aspects of TCI’s operations. You’ll be happy to learn that I invoked your term “tourismocrats” in my comments.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on April 26, 2010 - 20:39

Finally, a meme to call my own!

Ann Thurlow's picture
Ann Thurlow on April 27, 2010 - 14:19

I don’t feel as if we are only those things. And in fact, having attended Reg Porter’s lecture last night, I wish there was MORE history for everyone to learn about. I mean, there is lots of history — just no way to tell the story.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on April 27, 2010 - 19:18

This is because you live in the thoroughly modern NoEu neighbourhood; down below Euston it’s all frilly gowns, ye olde-this and ye-olde that and old-style Puritanism.

Rob Lantz's picture
Rob Lantz on April 27, 2010 - 20:00

Though, I should also note, I offered as much praise as constructive criticism.

Corey's picture
Corey on April 30, 2010 - 00:55

I completely agree Peter and I think you have presented a very balanced critique of this issue by highlighting Arjen’s article.

I lean more towards the critical side when examining Charlottetown’s current identity crisis.

I always felt that the Founders Hall concept was the wrong direction for us to take because it does nothing to help embrace and LEARN about our collective heritage. I see it as an expensive and dated infotainment attraction for cruise ship passengers that does not do justice to the story of the Charlottetown Conference, let alone the plethora of other histories this province has to offer.

If PEI were at all serious about its heritage, and its future, its government would fund the construction and operation of a provincial museum and archives facility at a repurposed Dominion Building property along the same lines as http://www.therooms.ca and http://www.royalbcmuseum.bc.ca which would have the appropriate experts available to tell the story of this province’s natural and modern history (which includes the 1864-1910 cultural period).

The current strategy of blatantly catering to tourism is most certainly holding us back. I cringe whenever I see the hundreds if not thousands of examples from city hall’s (and Province House’s) dichotomous policies that touch on heritage. Examples include what I see as epitomized by the decision in 2005 during Charlottetown 150 to acquire the Dupont Industries replica streetcar design for our transit buses (we never had a streetcar system) while allowing developments of very questionable merit such as this hotel http://www.cbc.ca/canada/princ… I could go on and on.

The way I see it, PEI society, and thus its civic and provincial political leadership, has in recent decades embraced the so-called “ye olde” concept in PEI to the point where they cannot see the forest for the trees. Uninformed policy makers leaning more to the economic development cum political-ribbon-cutting side of the spectrum believe that they are honouring our heritage by catering to tourists through chintzy street signs and public space branding attempts for the 500 lots area south of Euston Street, and through the “Confederation Players” strolling about amid the Starbucks, Roots and other chain shops in the downtown. Unfortunately this just smacks of Halifax’s ill-fated and unfortunate branding through the Alexander Keith’s beer commercials back in the 1990s or the town criers of the 70s and 80s. We are much better than how we currently present ourselves to visitors.

To our political leadership and policy makers: Please urge your colleagues to move beyond such token efforts and push for a comprehensive heritage strategy which reflects the need for professional interpretation and presentation of natural and modern history without resorting to past attempts to cultivate a cultural landscape that simply doesn’t pass the sniff test.

oliver's picture
oliver on May 4, 2010 - 08:44

You’ve got yer wind turbines, hydrogen buses, the Confederation Bridge and high per capita rate of webby pundit/entrepreneurs such as yourself. I’d have thought PEI was coming to be associated with things modern and progressive too. It’s typical in the European cities that attract tourists that you have both preservation of the old and ultra-modern stuff going on side-by-side, which for me is a large part of the enjoyment of traveling there. It’s just nifty somehow. Maybe people innovate because they’re shamed and goaded by the famous old stuff they’re obliged to preserve and put forward for tourists, and so maybe the past feels like a burden, even while being more like the opposite. But if you step back and imagine what the place is like to visitors—preserved old stuff juxtaposed with the new—you could feel proud of the niftyness of that—at least, if you find such juxtapositions nifty, as I do. That said, I personally don’t count musical adaptations or sound & light tributes as either the preservation of old stuff or as innovations. To me that stuff is kinda sad, but I guess tastes vary in travel as in everything else.

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