Guest post by Carl Benn The bicentennial of a number of War of 1812 battles that took place on the Mississippi River and across the upper Great Lakes occurs this summer. Naturally, some are being commemorated by volunteer groups, museums, and heritage organizations, often within the context of larger programs and exhibits exploring the western frontiers of the Anglo-American confrontation. Their efforts are important. They provide opportunities for those who care about the past to share their expertise and enthusiasm with the public. They also allow museums and heritage sites to communicate their distinctive ways of interpreting the past, based, to a large degree, on material culture and a sense of place. In the process, their labors enhance historical understanding, enrich the cultural life of their communities, and engage tourists and other visitors to their localities. Villa Louis Historic Site. Farther north, there will be the recreation of the Battle of Mackinac two hundred years to the day—and at the same location—of the August 4, 1814 confrontation. This is just one of a wide range of programs at Mackinac State Historic Parks, where visitors also may explore a rich collection of fortifications and other heritage sites spanning the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries at the head of Lake Michigan. Across the border in Ontario, where the War of 1812 enjoys greater public interest than it does in the United States, several sites are offering programs this summer along with their regular exhibits, including Fort St. Joseph, located south of Sault Ste. Marie, the Nancy Island Historic Site at Wasaga Beach on Georgian Bay, and the old Royal Navy base nearby at Discovery Harbour in Penetanguishene. Beyond special events, the museums and parks throughout the old western theater of the War of 1812 also interpret its course (and many other absorbing histories) for the enlightenment of visitors. One of the numerous examples of small sites is an early-1900s memorial to the 1814 Battle of Campbell’s Island, which in itself is an interesting cultural artifact that speaks to the sensibilities and aesthetics of the time of the war’s centennial a century ago. Not far away, a 1916 replica of a blockhouse stands on Arsenal Island in Rock Island, Illinois. It resembles one built one hundred years earlier at Fort Armstrong as part of the American effort to dominate native affairs on the Mississippi within a few miles of Black Hawk’s village of Saukenuk. Unfortunately, the blockhouse often is overlooked because of the greater attractions of the neighboring Rock Island Arsenal Museum. Alternatively, visitors may enjoy the nearby nature preserve of Black Hawk State Park in Rock Island along with its Hauberg Museum, dedicated to indigenous history. About ninety miles to the south is the reconstructed Old Fort Madison, in the Iowa city of the same name. That post came under native attack during the war—with Black Hawk present—and is a focal point for the reenactment community of the area as well as an attraction for both residents and visitors. Beyond these events and sites, other historical societies at the state, county, and municipal levels have been organizing lectures and events, presenting web content, and building awareness. By sharing the region’s War of 1812 heritage during the bicentennial years, these organizations look back to an important period in North American history when natives and newcomers confronted each other over the future of the upper Mississippi and Great Lakes regions. Combined with their programs and exhibits, there is much to explore for people wishing to “visit” the 1814 Lake Michigan and Mississippi River campaigns and the great range of other histories that these organizations preserve and interpret for everyone’s benefit. Carl Benn is the author of numerous works on the War of 1812 and First Nations history, including Native Memoirs from the War of 1812: Black Hawk and William Apess, published by Johns Hopkins University Press. He is a professor of history at Ryerson University in Toronto.