I was lucky in that my research trip to Québec coincided with the annual Fêtes de la Nouvelle-France, or New France Festival, in the historic district of Québec City. This year's festivities are marked by the 350th anniversary of the arrival of the Filles du Roi, or the King's Daughters. Sent to New France to help populate the colony, approximately 800 women were recruited by Louis XIV between 1663 and 1673; the king paid each girl's dowry and passage to North America. Many French Canadians draw ancestry from one or more of these women.
Outfitted in historic dress for the second quarter of the eighteenth century, I engaged visitors on topics as diverse as the fur trade, costume in New France, the colonial social hierarchy, and even furniture (I have yet to master anything close to a Québecois accent or vocabulary in my spoken French, so people eventually asked where I was from and what I was doing in Québec, which was a perfect segue to mention my thesis research). With August representing a peak in tourism, the festival crowd is incredibly diverse. I was switching between French and English the entire time as Americans, Anglophone Canadians, French, Francophone Canadians, and others of all ages and nationalities stopped in to ask questions and inspect the reproduction objects, furs, and maps. Many had little to no background in the history of French North America and had thoughtful things to contribute through their questions and comments.
At the New France Festival, the public was actively engaged and asking me great questions. Several guests stayed and chatted for over half an hour. This kind of personal exchange was completely natural and, unlike in a classroom setting, neither forced nor subject to scrutiny by a teacher or the rest of the class. I could tell that visitors were at ease, and although it sounds cliché, I could see their eyes light up upon seeing and handling a reproduction object or asking about my clothing. It definitely clicked for them, and was the perfect end to my trip to New France!
*Merci à Joseph Gagné pour les photos !