By Barb & Peter Gilbert
Your camp’s history is contained in the numbers, dates, lists, forms, manuals and contracts of your official records. These are your important archival materials, and they are the kind of data that researchers use from the Camping Collections at the Trent University Archives.
However, your heritage is your people, who they were, why they came, what they did, how and where they did it, their successes and failures, and how you all progressed from your camp’s beginnings to this season.
Many years ago at camp I found a collection of old photos. I hung them on the wall in the dining hall. Campers and counsellors were immediately interested, and a lot of discussion ensued. That’s what the Dining Hall looked like? Look at the funny clothes the kids wore. That was a trip tent? The diving tower is not where it used to be. The trees were so small, and there were a lot more of them. They came to camp by train? With a steam engine? Who were those obviously important guests posing in front of the Lodge? The other side of the lake was all forest. Look, there are my parents as teenagers in that photo. Some of the campers and counsellors actually searched for and found the remains of the old diving tower crib just outside the current swim area.
Some of the camps we have visited have banners and pennants hung from the rafters. On the walls are plaques or trophies listing all the winners of various competitions. Others have paddles commemorating far away trips, signed by every member of the party. The annual camp photos are on display. Buildings have names that recall people or events, each with its story. Another camp carved an annual totem pole, and dedicated it in a formal ceremony.
You could copy and display the original survey of the property, or an early hand drawn plan of the site.
Sometimes an activity, born of functional necessity, loses its purpose, but carries on as a ritual.
All of this opens a much wider window on the world than just your camp. Social change, demographics, technology and the evolution of the eco-system all become apparent, fueling awareness and discussion.
If you are already doing some of these things, you are expressing your camp’s heritage, the goals and achievements, the attitudes and comradeship, the pride and determination of your people over the years; all to encourage your current and future campers and staff to feel that their camp has a heritage worth emulating today and tomorrow.
When you know where you were, and how you arrived where you are, then you can know where you are going.