Is it a historic place, resource or site? What’s the difference?

Some of the words we use to discuss heritage conservation can be confusing. The related but distinct terms historic place, historic resource and historic site are often misunderstood. Sometimes, people will talk of historic sites when they mean historic resources, and make reference to historic places when the place is not formally historic. Confused? I shall clarify:

Historic Place is the generic term used throughout Canada to reference “a structure, building, group of buildings, district, landscape, archaeological site or other place in Canada that has been formally recognized for its heritage value.” Each province and territory has separate legislation regulating the identification, evaluation and management of historic places. Therefore, each province uses a different term to describe a designated or protected historic place. For example, in Manitoba they are called Heritage Sites and in Saskatchewan, Heritage Properties. 

Brooks Aqueduct is a historic place designated as a Provincial Historic Resource and is operated as a historic site.

Alberta’s Historical Resources Act uses the term Historic Resource. A Historic Resource is defined as a historic place valued for “its palaeontological, archaeological, prehistoric, historic, cultural, natural, scientific or esthetic interest”. The Government of Alberta may designate a historic resource as a Provincial Historic Resource and a municipality may designate a historic resource as a Municipal Historic Resource. Designated historic resources may not be repaired, altered or destroyed without written approval from the designating authority.

A Historic Site is a historic resource owned or leased by the Government of Alberta and managed by the Historic Sites and Museums Branch of Culture and Community Spirit. These sites are interpreted through public programming, signage and exhibits. Stephansson House and Brooks Aqueduct are examples of historic sites.

So, if you ever find yourself talking about an old place ask: “What do I really mean? Has it been formally recognized by the Government of Alberta or a municipality?” Perhaps you are talking about a formally recognized historic resource.

Written by: Brenda Manweiler, Municipal Heritage Services Officer

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