What’s in a name?
Students in Mount Allison University’s Maps and Empire course, a second-year class in Visual and Material Culture Studies, are joining forces with the Town of Sackville to learn more about street names, monuments, and the significance and representation behind them.
The class is studying place names and has constructed a survey seeking to learn more about individuals’ knowledge of current Town street names and monuments, and what groups they might like to see represented in the future.
Dr. Lauren Beck, professor in Hispanic studies and visual and material culture studies, and Canada Research Chair in Intercultural Encounter teaches the class. She says it’s important for communities to have this data as it provides valuable insight for inclusive naming and policies going forward.
“The students are working in groups, focusing on research and data collection, data analysis, and then the final report, which will be presented to the Town,” says Beck. “Communities across Canada, and globally, have been reviewing their naming protocols to determine if they are inclusive, contain colonial, racist, sexist, or ableist references that could be addressed for the future. It’s exciting to be partnering with Sackville for this exercise.”
The project stems from research Beck completed for her latest book, Canada’s Place Names and How to Change Them, which looks at place names across the country through racialized and gendered lenses.
Student Kate McSweeney is part of the class research team. She has been learning about the history of the Town’s 134 street names and monuments.
“While taking part in this project I have taken a great deal of time to research the history of six street names in Sackville,” says McSweeney. “I have learned about when our streets were created along with the priorities that the town placed on types of place names. Many names stem from the land or surrounding area while many streets named after people are most often male landowners.”
Along with the survey report, the class will also prepare an additional informational report around policy research and naming processes.
Town Chief Administrative Officer Jamie Burke says this kind of research is invaluable for a community like Sackville.
“Gathering and interpreting this kind of data will assist us in naming policies going forward and help guide our approach,” says Burke. “In an area with such a long and diverse history, it’s important that this kind of inclusivity be reflected in place names.”
All current and former Town residents are encouraged to complete the online survey, link available on the Town's website. It will be available until March 6, 2022.
Read more about the survey at CBC NB (Feb 27/22)