Heritage Advisory Bodies aren’t pep squads but they do need P.E.P!
As a best practice, the Municipal Heritage Services Unit of Alberta Culture encourages municipalities that are developing local heritage conservation programs to establish a heritage advisory body. A heritage advisory body could be a board, commission or committee that advises Council on matters pertinent to the development and management of a local heritage program. Essentially, a heritage advisory body has the important job of providing public input and expertise to Council so that informed decisions about the municipality’s heritage will benefit current residents and future generations. Heritage advisory bodies can also play a key role in fostering community interest and support.
So what does pep have to do with heritage advisory bodies? Well, a quick search on Dictionary.com defines “pep” as being indicative of high spirits, energy, or vitality. While these are great traits for a municipal heritage advisory body, these groups should also possess another type of pep: Planning, Engagement and Partnerships.
Planning – A wise man once taught me: “Prior preparation and planning prevents poor performance.” This holds true for the development of local heritage conservation programs. For a municipality (and its heritage advisory body) to effectively manage historic resources it should learn about, understand and plan for the successful protection and conservation of significant places. A heritage advisory body, representing the broader community, plays a key role in planning projects that identify potential historic places, evaluating sites for heritage value and determining appropriate procedures and policies for managing an effective heritage program. The Municipal Heritage Partnership Program has a suite of cost-shared grants designed to assist with the completion of these projects.
Engagement – Why do we conserve heritage? Many answers come to mind but the most commonly referenced speaks of how present and future generations will benefit from improved community identity and a stronger sense of place. Ultimately, this reason transforms heritage conservation into something that is very people focused, as opposed to place specific. So, when planning don’t forget to engage the community benefiting from heritage conservation! Find ways for residents to participate and experience their heritage: organize heritage awareness special events; develop educational material so that people may learn about and take pride in their community’s unique heritage. Be creative in your approach and have fun! Heritage awareness or research grants offered through the Heritage Preservation Partnership Program may assist with these types of initiatives.
Partnerships – Heritage is holistic and so its conservation and celebration can’t be completed in isolation. As a result, heritage advisory bodies should engage and partner with other organizations – especially community organizations that are atypical. That local hockey association, tennis club, wilderness organization or theatrical society might very well be planning the perfect event that could support some heritage engagement objectives. The members of those same organizations might also provide a new perspective or highlight additional opportunities related to heritage conservation. I challenge you: find a listing of community organizations, select the one that seems least likely to have an interest in heritage conservation and try to collaborate on a mutually beneficial project. Through partnerships and collaborations, awareness and appreciation of heritage will surely increase.
This P.E.P. approach to heritage management will help ensure a collective community-driven attitude; a method that will strengthen and increase support and contribute to a community culture of conservation.
Written by: Brenda Manweiler, Municipal Heritage Services Officer