WHY NOT AN INTERNET MEMORIAL ON TRAGEDY? (April 14/00)

In a recent column, I mentioned that efforts will be made to mark a 19th century accidental drowning in the Minas Basin. Ivan Smith, Canning, has come up with a novel suggestion, a possible alternative to the standard plaque on a cairn. In the following letter received via e-mail, he outlines a proposal for a monument on an Internet site.

“You mentioned,” Smith writes, “that Roscoe Potter, Wolfville, is spearheading a fund-raising effort that he hopes will result in a cairn-mounted plaque commemorating the tragic sinking of a sailboat in the Minas Basin in 1852. Certainly, I support the idea of establishing a memorial to this event, but there’s another way – I believe a better way – to do it. I refer to the Internet.

“A cairn with a plaque will be seen only by a very small number of people, maybe a few dozen a year. Consider the cairn-mounted brass plaque that was installed some years ago in a little park beside a paved highway in Nova Scotia, in memory of Abraham Gesner. How many Nova Scotians stop to read that plaque in a year? How many Nova Scotians even know this memorial exists?

“Narrow the query to Kings County, where the plaque is located. How many residents of Kings County have read that plaque? How many even know this memorial exists? Or where it is located?

“In an ordinary week I drive past the Gesner memorial four or five times. In the last eight years I’ve passed by there more than a thousand times. I always look at it as I drive by, and I’ve never seen anyone in the vicinity of the Gesner plaque. Not even once.

“Compare that with the Gesner material that is available on the Internet.

“At [http://newscotland1398.ca/99/gesner-whales.html] there’s an excellent article describing how Abraham Gesner saved the whales. It is quickly and easily available any time to anyone in the world who has Internet access – which includes almost all of the high school students in Nova Scotia. I believe this one Internet article is a far more effective way to commemorate Gesner than any plaque, and there is much more about on the Internet.

“[http://ns1763.ca/kingsco/gesnermem.html] there is a collection of… links to an assortment of historical information about Gesner, which provides an excellent overview of what Gesner accomplished and the circumstances in which he worked. These references contain many thousands of words of first-rate information. And there are pictures. Today, Google (the best search engine now available) reports 147 webpages in response to the keyphrase “Abraham Gesner.”

“The webpage techdt03.html has been viewed by more than 1400 people in the last six months. Have 1400 people stopped to read the Gesner plaque in six months? In six years? Compare this rich resource with the sparse information – a paltry 93 words – on the Gesner plaque.

“In my view, there’s no contest. The Internet in one day reaches more people than the plaque does in a year, even in a decade.

“How can a memorial to the 1852 tragedy be set up on the Internet? The quickest and easiest way is to find out who owns the copyright to Esther Clark Wright’s book, Blomidon Rose, chapter 12 (per your column). Then negotiate the purchase of the right to publish this text on the Internet.

“Almost certainly the purchase of this permission to publish will cost much less than the price of a decent cairn with a plaque, and the result will reach many more people than any plaque ever could.”

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