Heritage Conservation is an interdisciplinary field that has practical roots in advocacy, community-based pedagogy, and sustainable planning. The School of Indigenous and Canadian Studies (SICS) has sustained a vibrant M.A. programme in Heritage Conservation for almost thirty years. Some of our recent graduates are profiled here. SICS also offers an undergraduate Minor in Heritage and Conservation.

The discipline of Heritage Conservation is undergoing a period of expansion and evolution, with the emergence of cultural landscape approaches, increased interest in intangible heritage, and consideration of the complex issues embedded in the heritage of the recent past. Established approaches to Heritage Conservation have also been challenged over the past twenty years by the emergence of “critical heritage studies,” which critically examines definitions of heritage, why it matters, who it serves, and who makes decisions as to what is preserved.

Article 11 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states, “Indigenous peoples have the right to practice and revitalize their cultural traditions and customs. This includes the right to maintain, protect and develop the past, present and future manifestations of their cultures, such as archaeological and historical sites, artifacts, designs, ceremonies, technologies and visual and performing arts and literature” [United Nations General Assembly 2007]. Following the renaming of the School of Indigenous and Canadian Studies in 2016, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action directly and indirectly related to heritage contexts, an emerging part of discussions in our classes is on approaches to decolonizing heritage and its conservation, as institutionalized, practiced, and taught in Canada.

In 2021, encouraged by faculty in the School of Indigenous and Canadian Studies, Carleton University has joined the Climate Heritage Network. Heritage planning is all about managing change for the better, and now we need to prepare for even more radical change. As part of that, culture must play a role in making adaptation to climate change more meaningful, through continuity and creativity. The MOU with the Climate Heritage Network commits the university to strengthening efforts to address climate change and a renewed commitment to the Paris Agreement with an emphasis on arts, culture and heritage. As stated in the MOU, the “arts, culture and heritage (including sites and landscapes, institutions and collections as well as creativity, intangible heritage, traditional ways of knowing and practices) constitute an invaluable resource to help communities reduce greenhouse gas emissions and strengthen adaptive capacity, even while the risks to those resources from climate impacts must also be addressed.”

To help deepen discussions on the futures of heritage and conservation, the School sponsors an annual Heritage Conservation Symposium, which is largely organized by graduate students, and the Herb Stovel Memorial Lecture. The 2021 edition is on Keeping Heritage Real: Authenticity in Conservation Practice. Faculty and students are involved in a number of other heritage initiatives in Ottawa and beyond. From 2006 to 2018 this included student and faculty participation at the annual Roundtables hosted by the Université de Montréal’s Canada Research Chair in Built Heritage. Students are encouraged to present at conferences of national and local organizations, including ICOMOS Canada, National Trust for Canada, Architectural Conservancy of Ontario, and many others. Many organizations have scholarships to support student attendance.

Key SICS faculty teaching in heritage and conservation subjects are Dr. Jerzy (Jurek) Elżanowski and Professor Susan Ross. They collaborate with colleagues in Architecture, Architectural History, Curatorial Studies, Engineering and History, who teach and/or do research in related subjects. Students from these other departments also participate in the graduate courses, providing a rich interdisciplinary context for learning and discussion of theory and practice. Students considering applying to study at the school are encouraged to contact professors Elżanowski and Ross to discuss their interests.

Students interested in following the Major Research Essay or Thesis option should discuss their intentions with both the School’s Graduate Supervisor Anne Trépanier and other faculty with related research interests. Additional information on graduate programme options and requirements is found here. Some key resources on heritage conservation are listed here.

At a more practice-oriented level, many students in the Heritage Conservation programme select to do a combination of coursework and unpaid internships that count for credit. Internship partners in the last few years have included Bytowne Museum, Contentworks, City of Ottawa, Heritage Ottawa, Lowertown Community Association, National Capital Commission, and Parks Canada. Students may identify other partners or seek advice related to their interests. The internships take place during the term in lieu of a course, usually starting in the 2nd year.

As part of the NSERC CREATE Heritage Engineering and SSHRC New Paradigms New Tools for Architectural Heritage grants held in Engineering and Architecture, students in the School’s MA programme may apply for paid internships available through a selective process.

Broken maple leaf railing, Major’s Hill Park former potting shed/Blink Gallery, Ottawa (Susan Ross, 2015)