Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Quantifying heritage

Right up until 10.30 last night, I held hopes of writing. As I propped glazed and gritty eyes open I realised that it wasn’t going to happen. Between school holidays and an unusual burst of other activities, writing is on the back burner for the moment. So I’m going to snatch a few minutes for some stocktaking.

Thanks to those of you who voted in my reading poll. All I can say is that you are unusually erudite and well-read (57% of you having read more than 15 books last year). Some of the results can be interpreted by the nature of the subject area. I’m guessing that Australian history, and more specifically Queensland German migrant history isn’t quite the hot topic of everyday discussion that it is in my household.

This weekend was the second, and last of the community workshops on the future of Marburg. One of the most interesting discussions for me came under the umbrella of future development when we tried to define Marburg’s USP – unique selling point. That is, what is it that makes Marburg different and perhaps appealing? The Great Southeast, a tourist promotion television programme that screens here on late Sunday afternoons, recently did a section on Marburg. Their take on Marburg focused on its German heritage. Shots of glamorous presenter drinking beer (probably Australian) leaning against the bar in the pub aside, there was little evidence of German heritage to be seen.

A fellow member of the historical society proposed the idea that the heritage of the German migrants is the rolling, cleared hillsides and the “scenic amenity” of the area. There’s no question that this would be a different landscape without the industrious German farmers. Roads pushed into deep valleys and winding along the hills; neatly fenced pastures; houses dotted over the hillsides and the continued existence of what is really only a village. All these bear testimony to their work.

However, it is hard to quantify something so ephemeral. On the other hand, we don’t want beer halls and cuckoo clocks. Our challenge is to think of something that will appeal to the daytripper and casual visitor without alienating residents. That’s not to knock scenic amenity. After all, that’s why a lot of us are here.

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