Broader Vision for Heritage Needed

Article excerpt

Winnipeg and other Manitoba communities need to find a new model for celebrating local heritage, since they can no longer rely on government for financial support, says a long-time Winnipeg historian.

Greg Thomas, who represents Manitoba on the Heritage Canada Foundation, said efforts to preserve local heritage must involve the entire community and link conservation to social enterprise, as Red River College has done with the old Union Bank Tower.

The biggest challenge for heritage advocates as they honour Heritage Day on 18 February is recognizing "we need a new model or vision for how we look at heritage," Thomas said. His comments followed recent news that the City of Winnipeg is considering cutting funding to museums. "Who's going to be the champion for heritage in the future?" he asked. Legislation to protect heritage buildings provides a good framework but is not enough, Thomas said. "It's about persuading councillors that heritage should be part of the decision-making."

However, with local governments restricting funds, those leading the way will be community groups, foundations and non-profit organizations such as the Nature Conservancy of Canada, which recently purchased Fort Ellice. Such groups will have to seek out new ways of involving the general public-- particularly the younger generation--in heritage education and conservation, Thomas said. He cited groups such as the Friends of Upper Fort Garry and the Forks North Portage Partnership as examples. …