Sixteen weeks ago I was offered a contract to blog about Barkerville for the Prince George Citizen. I was in transit when I discovered I had the job, having just arrived at my sister and brother in law’s place in Ladner on my way home from Victoria, where my annual gig directing a historical theatre program at the Parliament Buildings had just wrapped. It was hot out, and the evening air had that first whiff of summer feeling.
I had applied for the writing gig, and was really hoping to get it. When I opened my email, there was the offer. Squee! I was going to write professionally about Barkerville for twenty weeks! My first article was published a few days later alongside Dirk Van Stralen`s fantastic companion cartoon.
At the onset of the gig a few people asked if I would find it daunting to try and come up with twenty ideas for the articles. Nope. Not at all. I have been associated with Barkerville for twenty years.
Barkerville is one of the most consistent, loyal, reliable loves of my life. I could go on and on about it. Okay… I DO go on and on about it. I loved the idea of both promoting the site and providing an insider’s view of things. I had no real plan in mind for the series of posts, deciding instead to write about whatever seemed appropriate that week. I wondered if a theme might emerge.
For the first few weeks I honestly assumed no-one was reading the articles. I knew they were being published in the Citizen, of course, and on Barkerville’s WordPress blog, but it seemed unfathomable to me that people were actually reading these musings I type from my home in tiny Wells, BC. Then, interesting things started to happen.
One day I arrived home from a play date with my kids to a message from a prominent radio station asking to interview me about a piece I wrote on ethics in historical interpretation. Another day I had a personal message from someone who had worked in Barkerville years ago and had been able to relate to a post about its resilience as a heritage site. While attending the Canadian National Gold Panning Championships, I was approached by a stranger who said: “I’m really enjoying your articles in the Citizen.” I was taken aback and flattered, and inadvertently let the person walk away before I had a chance to ask her how she knew I was the writer. I have been approached by people in Barkerville who engaged me in great conversations sparked by a particular post. So I guess some of you are actually reading this, and I am very grateful for that.
Today’s article is the sixteenth installment of twenty. I will blog right through to the final week of Barkerville’s September season. Since the end is in sight, I find myself ruminating on how positive this experience has been for me. What this writing gig is teaching me, above all else, is that Barkerville matters to people in a way that is personal. A recurring theme in my posts so far has been that Barkerville the town has a place in history, but Barkerville the heritage site has a place in the collective memory of contemporary British Columbians. Visits to Barkerville are part of the story of our childhoods, of our lives as parents, of our holidays and family time, of our identity.
As the leaves change colour and the night air begins to turn colder, I will complete my final four articles with this thought in mind: it is an honour to write about a place that means so much, to so many.
– Danette Boucher
The above one-panel cartoon by Dirk Van Stralen, with accompanying editorial by Danette Boucher, is the sixteenth of twenty weekly entries that will be logged – and subsequently blogged – as part of a 2013 collaboration between Barkerville, British Columbia and the Prince George Citizen aimed at introducing some of the quirkier advantages to living, working, and playing in the Cariboo Goldfields. We hope you enjoy!