New Green Gables interpretive centre puts focus on L.M. Montgomery

A new interpretive centre at Green Gables Heritage Place in Cavendish, P.E.I., will lead visitors to the iconic house, but not before they pass through displays that put P.E.I. author Lucy Maud Montgomery in the spotlight.

"The Green Gables house and the story of Anne of Green Gables is the focus for so many visitors every year," said Chantelle MacDonald, project manager for Parks Canada on P.E.I.

"The interpretive centre will also teach people about the woman who wrote the legendary tale."

Green Gables Heritage Place has been undergoing a major redevelopment over the last three years and the exhibit installation is the last phase of the project.

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There is a large display about Montgomery that MacDonald calls a "visual alpine path," referring to Montgomery's autobiography.

"We looked at places and people and the things that were important to her at different phases throughout her life and we chose images to represent those rather than words," MacDonald said.  

"It's very similar to what Montgomery did in her own personal scrapbooks, she really curated her own life."

Themes from novels

The interpretive centre focuses on themes from Montgomery's novels, especially Anne of Green Gables, including friendship, imagination, natural beauty and inspiration. 

There is also an exhibit that focuses on Montgomery's determination and perseverance in her writing career.

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"We talk about her first book and how thrilled she was to actually have her first book Anne of Green Gables published in 1908," MacDonald said.   "Then in the final part of the exhibit, we talk about how Montgomery and her works have inspired people from all over the world, both when the book was published and right up till today."

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1st look

One of the biggest changes to the site is the visitor's introduction to Green Gables.

The house is no longer visible from the parking lot, after Parks Canada changed the entrance in the first phase of the project.

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"On the old entrance you could see the house and part of the reason for that change was safety," MacDonald said.

"We were having a lot of visitors drive up the old entrance road and stop in the middle of the driveway to get a picture of the Green Gables house and traffic was backing up behind them."

Now visitors will go through the exhibit and then, as they exit, get their first look at the house.

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'Streakers, strollers and scholars'

MacDonald said she's not worried that visitors will rush through the exhibits to get to Green Gables.

"We planned for the streakers, the strollers and the scholars," MacDonald said. 

"The streakers are those people, as you just said, who don't really have any interest in the exhibit, they just want to go directly to the house."

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MacDonald said she expects the exhibit will have a greater appeal to the strollers and scholars.

"The strollers will come in read a little bit here and there, maybe read the headlines and look at the pictures and then go out to Green Gables," MacDonald said.

"And of course the scholars will read every word in the exhibit."

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'The woman and the writer'

Kate Scarth, chair of L.M. Montgomery Studies at UPEI, was part of a committee that was consulted on the new interpretive centre.

"There's just a much richer context," Scarth said. 

"Anne is still there, of course, but we learn a lot more about Montgomery, the woman and the writer."

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Scarth is pleased to see more focus on Montgomery.

"It's an incredible story right, this girl from the North Shore of P.E.I. becomes a world-renowned writer, a beloved writer, a Canadian icon," Scarth said. 

"As the new Heritage Minute shows, there were a lot of constraints, as a woman and writing, she really faced a lot of challenges."

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Parks Canada hopes to have the new interpretive centre open by Canada Day, with an official opening in August.

The cost of the exhibit was $1.2 million.

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