I Defend Heritage. Literally! …Who am I?

Well, not literally! Though I have driven an armoured personnel carrier while employed by a museum, I do not make a habit of using military force to ensure heritage is protected. Who am I? My name is Brenda Manweiler and like my colleagues (Carlo Laforge, Michael Thome and Ron Kelland) who have posted brief biographies, this post will introduce ME!

For those of you who do not know me, I work as a Municipal Heritage Services Officer for the Historic Places Stewardship Section of Alberta Culture and Community Services. I provide guidance, support and training to municipalities in all corners of Alberta so that successful local heritage conservation programs may contribute to the liveability and vitality of Alberta’s communities (check out our website: Municipal Heritage Partnership Program). As well, I administer this blog and coordinate content for our Facebook page and Twitter feed. Between blog posts and business trips I revel in how fortunate I am to be employed in a field that I am passionate about and how great it is that I get to travel throughout this beautiful province.

But what did I do before I landed this gig? The short of it is that I worked in heritage for the federal government, another province, an international museum, and also for municipalities and non-for-profit organizations – but the long of it? Well… for fifteen years I have been working to protect heritage (in one form or another). In 1997 I accepted my very first heritage job as a summer student at the Maple Ridge Museum – I was hooked! As a born and raised Maple Ridge, British Columbia resident (Maple Ridgian?), who was fascinated by history and “old things” since childhood, working at the Maple Ridge Museum was like a dream come true. During summers off from completing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History from the University of Victoria, I worked at a number of Vancouver-area museums (i.e. Pitt Meadows Museum, New Westminster Museum and Archives). After completing my BA I was fortunate to find continued employment in the heritage field. I worked at the Langley Centennial Museum, the BC Farm Machinery and Agricultural Museum and the Surrey Museum and Archives. At these community museums I completed a range of collections management projects or administered education programs for young children.  …Yes, I know how to churn butter, do laundry with a scrub board and complete “heritage” crafts. (Hmmm…I can also drive tractors! You never know what you will learn while working at a museum!!)

When presented with an internship opportunity at the National Army Museum in Waiouru, New Zealand, I could not say no. For six months I worked as the Assistant Curator of their Social History Collection. As a civilian within a military environment I was able to take advantage of many unique opportunities – yes, I really did drive an armoured personnel carrier, and yes, I also successfully completed a civilian version of a firearms qualification exam. Despite all this training, and “Officer” being part of my current job title, let me repeat myself – I do not use (or condone) military force to ensure heritage is protected!  🙂

Upon returning to civilian life, I decided it was time for another return – I went back to school! I completed a master’s degree in Canadian Studies (with a specialization in Heritage Conservation) from Carleton University. While studying in Ottawa I also worked part-time for the City of Ottawa as a Commemorations Coordinator – have you ever tried to complete an inventory of ALL the commemorations in a city of nearly one million people, and the nation’s capital at that? After graduating did I then settle down and obtain my current job? Nope. I spent some time working for the Province of British Columbia’s Heritage Branch as a Community Heritage Officer (very similar to my current job) and then returned to Ottawa for a couple years and worked for the Parks Canada Agency with their Historic Places Program Unit (a.k.a. Canadian Register of Historic Places).

Bouncing back and forth across the country confirmed for me that home is in western Canada. I have been living in Alberta (Edmonton) for the past two and half years (ever since starting my current job as Municipal Heritage Services Officer) and am very pleased to be here. Alberta is beautiful, diverse and rich in heritage!

My career path, thus far, has taken me from conserving a community’s artefacts to helping conserve communities and their significant places. The focus of these approaches may be quite different, but the common threads of community identity, connection to place and community passion is what makes it so pleasurable to work within the heritage field. When not working I train to be a life-long athlete. My sport? Living a healthy and active life. I run, bike, do yoga and enjoy most all other athletic pursuits that involve spending time outside (when it is not -30). Photography is also an interest of mine so a camera bag is often slung over my shoulder. Driving home to BC each summer and photographing mountains has proven to be one of my annual highlights.

But enough about me! Regularly scheduled programming (a post about historic places) will resume shortly. If you have any questions about the Municipal Heritage Partnership Program or other programs offered through the Historic Places Stewardship Section please post a comment below and I will ensure that the appropriate colleague responds.



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