This unit was interesting and informative as it formed the basis of our introduction to heritage resource management course. Understanding heritage and heritage management, reminded me of the need to preserve my culture and important artefacts in society. I remember the old and ancient artefacts that my grandfather showed us insisting that we preserve the same.
Public trust is key for the government and all citizens to endeavour to safeguard and conserve such important artefacts reminiscence of our cultures. Most of the time, people have focused on tangible heritage such as materials, with less focus on the most important intangible artefacts such as living expressions usually passed from ancestors to their descendants such as performing arts, oral traditions, rituals, social practices, knowledge and practices, concerning nature and universe, festive events among others. I believe that intangible heritage is also critical in preserving our global culture, especially during this era where people are embracing more contemporary lifestyles with little credit to the tradition and cultures. I am particularly interested in the quest to safeguard these treasure artefacts for future generations. Through lobbying and creation of awareness among my elderly community members, the responses have been positive as initiative to document and collect these artefacts is on-going.
Museums and archives are the major institutions recognised and even funded by the government to ensure safe custody of information record or material of value. There has been a change in the functioning and the way such institutions functions. The improvement in technology has also contributed to revolution in the way information is stored in the archives. The archives have systems that facilitate easy accessibility and retrieval of information of various material of heritage. This has improved the functionality of these institutions. Similarly, museums play a crucial role and changes have facilitated the experience of clients or visitors of such sites. Governments have partnered with individuals in an effort to ensure that important artefacts are secured and well maintained.
In Alberta, I am glad for the strides made in the management of museums. I have visited different museums including speciality museums such as Glenbow and Royal Tyrell, History museums such as Remington Carriage and Grande Prairie and various Art galleries such as Muttart Conservatory. These museums have different exhibitions that narrate the history and culture of the people from Alberta.
Historic places present yet another appealing source and means through which the society showcases their heritage. Most of the historic places I have visited have undergone modification with others remaining unattended. The question of environmental preservation of some of these sites is integral raising questions of under whose jurisdiction their management falls. Archaeological sites in various countries are marked and provide opportunities for visitors, historians, and archaeologist to explore their knowledge and learn. However, many have already been interfered with and what remain is manuscripts about them.
Some of the historic sites that I have attended and fall in love with include the Bar U Ranch established in 1882 and the Banff Springs Hotel which was completed in 1928. The hotel constructed by Scottish Baronial style at the base of Sulphur Mountain. The hotel was used by railway workers and passengers. It was built to replace a wooden 1888 hotel that was burned down in 1926. The site received many visitors from various parts of Canada. It has been well managed and conserved. In an interview with the site manager, Madam Allison, I widened my scope on the importance of conserving such sites. I believe that I can also be part of the team and champions to create awareness on the value of these historic sites in Alberta.
Governance and ethics are fundamental aspects and principles in the smooth operations of heritage institutions and resources. Professionals working in these institutions are guided by codes of ethics. The staffs have to be professional in executing their tasks and interacting with members of the public. In their duties, they have to be responsible, adhere to confidentiality when sharing information and remain answerable to their actions. They also need to help members of the public to understand and appreciate the need to conserve and manage heritage resources. The mission and vision statements and mandates of the institutions have to be upheld and adhered to at all the time. Most of the heritage institution receives funding from the government. Management is also under the government officers, while others are privately owned and managed.
Current reports on misuse of resources geared at management of heritage resource are disheartening. I believe that managers need to have high integrity and a sense of responsibility to secure heritage resources. I feel as a young and upcoming leader, I have a responsibility to transform and promote integrity and professionalism in the way we manage our resources.
Heritage sites have become lucrative as a source of revenue in terms of foreign exchange from the tourists visiting such sites. Tourists pay huge amount of money to have a look and study about various issues such as history, archaeologist discoveries, artefacts, cultures and doctrines of various communities. I have toured various sites across the world and experienced the economic impact brought by historical sites. However, governments have to also enforce stringent laws to manage the negative impacts brought about by tourism such as stealing of information and moral decay as a result of exportation of western lifestyles.
For instance, Banff National Park is one of the iconic and prestigious tourist sites in Alberta. Located 130 kilometres west of Calgary. The park has an array of spectacular mountain scenery, major ski resorts, tourist town of Banff and beautiful lakes, wildlife and hiking sports. The park offers accommodation and receives visitors from across the globe. The tourist site has generated foreign exchange for the province and the state, promoting other developments and economy. I have a friend that has secured employment courtesy of the park.
The question of who is supposed to control or mange historical artefacts has always elicited debate. Cultural heritage provides a medium through which society and generations recount stories on their values and national life. With increasing value and quest to have a sense of belonging, communities have cried foul in terms of ownership of some of the cultural heritage materials considered precious and valuable. This has even elicited reactions and conflicts with those who perceived to be the rightful owners demanding possession of cultural, national or even spiritual artefact of importance to their communities. They want such artefacts repatriated back for them to claim ownership and sense of pride and belonging. This, therefore, creates a concern on establishment of frameworks to handle such issues, especially through arbitrations to avoid disagreements on their ownership.
My personal experience on this is evident that indeed, different people differ on the sense of belonging, more so because of the benefits associated with such artefacts. Nevertheless, I am still optimistic that such disagreements and differences can be handled amicably with proper procedures and policies. The community has a sense of belonging and need to feel part of the projects around their vicinity and even take part in them.
Just like in any other organization and institution, planning is key even in heritage issues, especially considering many activities in place. Making decision on which artefacts to conserve and those to discard need astute planning skills and capabilities. The criteria have to be defined and the thresholds set on which to base the decision concerning determination of significance and insignificance aspects of heritage. Of course, the reasons for preserving or collecting certain artefacts and not others must suffice to inform the decision. Similarly, other factors to put into consideration include the feasibility and the costs of preserving the same. Canada is one of the nations that have set standardization measures widely accepted on the conservation of historic places. For instance, they first consider the significance factor when making decision on what to preserve and what not to preserve. Determining what qualifies as significant is also put into radar, which is normally based on the societal value and attachment of the artefact.
I am of the view that decisions of such kind need to incorporate the elderly and the community leaders. Such individuals have knowledge and understanding of some of the material artefacts that can be preserved for future generations. Most importantly would be to assess the benefits and the significance of the artefact on the future generation.
Conservation is also an important aspect in heritage management. Carelessness and failure to ensure safe custody of cultural heritage artefacts would definitely render such heritage valueless. The museums, archives and historical sites are subject to continuous care and management to guarantee their longevity in preserving the heritage. Deterioration may involve or be witnessed on buildings, landscape, archaeological sites artefacts and document. I have personally experienced a historical site that lies in ruins because of lack of proper conservation and management. The result of its decapitating poor management orchestrated by misuse of public funds and lack of commitment in their preservation. I believe that these sites require facelifts on continuous basis to guarantee their longevity in the promotion and safeguarding of these artefact and activities. As a citizen of goodwill, I have the responsibility to raise such concerns to the respective authorities for an immediate action to be taken to remedy the same. I have done this on many occasions and believe that trough persistence, something would ultimately be done.
Visitation to heritage sites is closely tied to education. Most visitors to heritage sites such as museums, cultural center historic sites and archives cite learning and leisure. Therefore, the link between the sites cannot be overruled on baseless account. From personal experience, I have gained much knowledge through the visits to different sites in the previous years, enabling me to understand and appreciate the aspect of integrated programming. Most of the time, learning has been controlled or rather ‘informal’-free choice. The level of control is not comparable to that of class environment as one chooses on where to begin and end. Similarly, I have also visited some institutions that have various interpretive programs, with learning needs such as guided tours, exhibition, publications, walking tours, interactive computer games and web pages among many others. However, most of the sites apply constructivist learning theory whereby meaning making is made by the learner. Learning is active and people take meaning from the artefacts based on their own personal experiences and knowledge. I second both interpretive learning and guided learning for the visitors to help them understand and appreciate these heritage resources. Allowing visitors to make their own meaning gives them an opportunity to be free thinkers. Similarly, some of the aspects would require guidance for better understanding of their history.
The exhibitions mounted in the museums walls and the live interpretations usually at the historical site provide an avenue of communicating and conveying a message to the people whether implicitly or explicitly. Visitors that view such exhibitions, even though may be predisposed or limited in their interpretation by their prior knowledge and life experience, have to appreciate the underlying message these artefacts represent, either willingly or unwillingly. This, therefore, explains the concept of interpretive programming.
Most of the time, I have also resisted thinking outside the box and buying new ideas from what I observe because of own biases. This is, however, a retrogressive way of learning and accepting change. Museums and heritage sites have various meanings that the guides and staffs have to understand and endeavour to pass the same to the tourists or visitors. For instance, an ancient product such as an elephant skull may have a lot of history and information about which a layman may not understand. For instance, the presence of the skull would imply the need to conserve elephants or may mean the size of the ancient elephants.
Summarily, issues raised are valid and apply to the real situation on the ground. Museums, archives and historical sites are critical to the preservation of the history and the values of society. My personal experience demonstrated that proper management and conservation of such site would impact positively on the transition and dissemination of some of the values and artefacts of importance to the future generations. However, negligence and poor management remains a major course of loss of valuable artefacts, hence denying future generation an opportunity to trace and appreciate their ancestors or roots.