Mind the Gap: Crossing Borders in Heritage and Conservation

2014 Carleton University Heritage Conservation Symposium

The phrase “mind the gap” was coined by the London Underground ca. 1968 for an automated announcement that warns passengers of gaps between train doors and station platforms.

Heritage and conservation are in expansion, crossing diverse value systems, professional disciplines, and physical territories. How has ‘minding’ gaps – paying attention to but also caring for perceived borders –challenged and enriched the ideas and work of heritage conservation?

  • What kinds of concepts and project work help create bridges?
  • What is happening at the margins of disciplines and territories?
  • How can we connect multidisciplinary languages and vocabularies?

Since it was founded in 1989, the heritage conservation programme in Canadian Studies has offered a multi-disciplinary context of study, with students of different backgrounds going on to diverse types of practices. With the recent creation of parallel conservation and sustainability programmes in architecture and engineering, Carleton is set to become a place where multi-disciplinarity is truly tested.

  • What are some specific challenges emerging as disciplines define their terrains?
  • Which stakeholders might be left out of inter-disciplinary discussions?
  • How can the potential for collaboration and integration be best developed?

Carleton is located in Ottawa, which as a capital region, and in its position on the Ottawa River and in Eastern Ontario, is defined by physical, cultural and political borders. While designation of a multi-territory site like the Rideau Canal as a World Heritage Site has drawn attention to the potential of thinking broader, protection of the historic urban landscape remains a challenge.

  • How are broader concepts for defining heritage areas and integrated planning being implemented?
  • What are successful models for conserving ‘cross-border’ cultural landscapes, historic routes or urban landscapes?


The 2014 symposium was a wonderful success, with over 80 attendees despite the stormy weather. Below are a few candid moments from the day-long event, captured beautifully by conservation architect and Carleton architecture graduate Elaine DeCoursey.