The more I learn about the lost villages with their layers of history, human drama, politics, and tragedy, the more incredible I find it that their story is virtually unknown.
Canadians often complain that their history is not interesting. I beg to differ. Canadian history is as interesting as we let it be; if we free our imaginations and mobilize our convictions, there will no end to interesting stories that we can tell each other about ourselves and, in so doing, better understand and define who we are.
The audio on this website, presently the voices of twenty-seven people affected by the loss of these communities, provide ample evidence of just the kind of fascinating, meaningful narratives around which to build and define a history. They put the villages and what they represent, if not back on the map, at least firmly back in our imagination and with that into our history.
If you find this art project meaningful and feel that this history should not be lost, then consider joining me in taking this project and exhibition one big step further into the community. I propose two ideas:
1. Mount a semi-permanent outdoor exhibition of large-scale images in sets of four or five in 10 or more places near the areas affected. The displays would be up for a number of years before being moved to a permanent home in Ault Park in Long Sault. The displays, spread out as the lost villages once were, would recreate at least a little of what it would once have been like to follow old Hwy No. 2 from village to village.
2. Work with high school students. Use the art and history as a basis of curricular activity in which students would interview their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents about their experiences. This would be a cross-generational effort to bring this history alive in its most immediate and relevant way.
This history will survive if we work in collaboration to make these ideas – and the stories that will flow from them – happen. If you would like to be part of the future of this exhibition and put this art to work in your community, contact Louis Helbig.