I grew up in North East Scotland, in the 1970s. This was a time before most people (or my family, anyway) took holidays abroad, and the small town of Aviemore was the vacation destination for many in my generation. I clearly remember that we heard about the death of Elvis whilst staying in a self-catering flat in Aviemore, as my Dad (a lifelong fan of the King) cooked us steaks, and we spent many happy times in the town.
Aviemore developed rapidly as a holiday centre from the 1960s, before suffering a serious downturn of fortunes in the 1980s. The town is now recovering, and the holiday ‘centre’ has seen some major investment in recent years, but many of the concrete landmarks and features I and others remember from the 70s are now gone. As an aside, I remember visiting the town in the early 2000s, and discovering that the swimming pool, ice rink, cinema and so on were (completely) gone. A paper soon to be presented at ACE 2017 deals with some of the issues this raises in terms of how a village can deal with losing a ‘centre’, but the biggest loss for me was that of Santaland (As an aside, this posting from George Monbiot in 1998 painted a rather depressing picture).
In Aviemore, ‘Santaland’ was a smallish attraction located at the holiday ‘centre’, which contained a grotto, a childrens train ride, a log cabin with games (including an ‘air hockey’ machine, which I used to play with my Dad), and the actual Santa and Mrs Santa. I have to admit that I did wonder (even at young age) why Santa was living in the Scottish Highlands in a purpose built visitor attraction, but you go along with these assertions…
What has become fascinating in recent years has been the extent to which remnants of attractions like ‘Santaland’ have started to appear in studies of abandoned architecture. In fact, in the process of looking for pictures of Aviemore, I discovered that there are in fact a whole collection of abandoned ‘Santalands‘ worldwide (including these nice images from Arizona, which strikes me as being even more unlikely as a home for the Claus family), each of which presumably hold equally strong emotional resonance for now grown-up children in those areas.
Most of the sites have tended to include photography taken recently, in an attempt to preserve what is still standing. From a visualisation perspective, I wonder if an increasingly inexpensive range of laser scanning and photogrammetry equipment and software will enable us to record these examples of social heritage in a comprehensive manner. Might it also be possible to connect these with individual social testimony?
After all, a run down and dirty statue of an elf is unlikely to be recognised as holding heritage value in itself. What the statue can conjure in terms of memory, emotion and social meaning, though, is something else entirely.