I spent a day in the Village of Delburne earlier this month, training the village’s new heritage advisory board. They plan to survey buildings and structures in the village over the next six months, or so. They also plan to do some oral history work with local citizens and use all this information to develop a walking tour and some interpretive plaques. Delburne is preparing to celebrate the centenary of the village’s incorporation, in 2013.
I do all sorts of heritage planning projects with Alberta’s municipalities, but while preparing for this workshop I was struck by how few municipal heritage surveys I have worked on recently. Delburne’s project has reminded me just how useful heritage survey’s can be.
A survey helps a municipality identify buildings and structures that may be significant, providing a basis to determine which places to evaluate further. The first step is for a community to select a geographic area to be studied. (Delburne is compact enough to be surveyed in one go). The survey team does some research to locate buildings and structures built before a cutoff date (usually 40 years ago). A fieldworker photographs each place’s facades (from the sidewalk and alley) using black-and-white archival-quality film. They will also make notes on each place’s design and general condition. This is combined with some historical information explaining how the building has been used over time. Together, this information forms a survey record.
The survey records are entered into the Alberta Heritage Survey database, part of the Heritage Resources Management Information System (HeRMIS). Each survey record is a snapshot of Alberta’s streetscapes and farmyards, showing us how they have evolved over time. The database can be searched in all sorts of ways—you can look for places made of a particular material, buildings that have certain design features and/or places associated with people or events.
The survey in Delbure will provide a sense of which places may be sufficiently significant to warrant further study and evaluation. Municipalities may choose to evaluate some of these places for heritage value, eventually develop management policies and possibly designate several places as Municipal Historic Resources.
Written by: Michael Thome, Municipal Heritage Services Officer