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Environment and History

Marketing Nature: The Canadian National Parks Branch and Constructing the Portrayal of National Parks in Promotional Brochures, 1936-1970

Paula Johanna Saari

Environment and History 21 (2015): 401-446. doi: 10.3197/096734015X14345369355863

This article studies the promotional publications of the Canadian National Parks Branch by examining how the ideal national park landscape was constructed in booklets. The study adds to literature that examines the shifting purposes of national parks and complements recent studies on representations of national park nature, by extending attention to Canadian park brochures, which have received little attention from scholars. Based on an examination of numerous booklets and extensive archival records on promotional publications, the article argues that rather than merely publicising the parks as they were, the Branch carefully constructed the park ideal in its booklets. This portrayal of parks drew from the parks agency's own ideas regarding the purpose of parks and from the perceived wishes of visitors and society, creating expectations of park nature but also responding to them. The park ideal portrayed in booklets transformed over time. The article illustrates how nature's place and meaning was altered in booklets to create and recreate the parks according to the needs of changing times. In examining the National Parks Branch's promotional brochures and their creation process, the article aids our understanding of the place of national parks and nature in society. It demonstrates how the parks agency redefined parks in response to its own evolving views of parks and society's wishes: changing views of what made parks useful altered their representation and the guiding themes of parks promotion shifted from usefulness and recreation to wilderness museum. Promotional literature carried certain connotations - such as national identity connected to natural landscape - throughout the period, rearticulating them to suit different times. As recent discussions on national parks in global perspective have noted, parks are part of transnational circulation of ideas, hence the Canadian experience can also be seen in a broader context.

KEYWORDS: Canadian National Parks Branch, national parks, tourism, promotional brochures

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