Daniel Francis

Reading the National Narrative

History of the Parks

May 21, 2014

Long ago (late 1970s) in a galaxy far, far away (Ontario) I worked for three years as a contract historian for Parks Canada. My assignment was to prepare an oral history of the Trent-Severn Waterway which winds across southern Ontario from Trenton on Lake Ontario to Port Severn on Lake Huron. During the summer I would record interviews with people who worked, or had worked, along the waterway; in the winter I wrote up my research.

In those days Parks Canada would publish some of its research in cheaply-produced, pale blue documents called the Manuscript Report Series. Which is how I come to include in my cv Manuscript Report #358, "Towards a History of the Kawartha-Otonobee Sector of the Trent-Severn Waterway" (1980).

Ugly as they are to look at and hard as they are to find, these studies, hundreds of them, contain a treasure trove of material about the country's national parks and historic sites written by some of the ablest historical researchers in the country. So I am pleased to learn that plans are afoot to put them online at a new, independent website aimed at showcasing the history of the parks.

The Manuscript Report Series is not available yet, but many other publications are, so take a look.