Which of you RETROactive readers out there doesn’t love the annual Municipal Heritage Forum? What started in 2007 as a small “Summit for Stakeholders,” has grown into something which has brought Alberta’s heritage community together, building connections and raising the bar. We have received lots of positive feedback on the Forum over the years, and – we have to be honest – it’s also a lot of fun to put on!
Mark your calendars now – October 22-24th – we are linking up our already dynamic Forum with the premier, Canada-wide heritage conservation conversation. We’ll converge in Calgary, one of Canada’s most energetic cities, for a few days of exploration, engagement, and inspiration.
At the 2014 Lacombe Forum, Fred Bradley, Chair of the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation, announced that the Foundation would be assisting 120 Albertans – including municipal heritage advisory boards, Main Street communities, students, and others – to attend the Heritage Energized through sponsored registrations. Henry Maisonneuve, Alberta Governor of Heritage Canada the National Trust, thanked the Foundation for their strategic partnership in this way, stating that he looked forward to a strong contingent of Albertans participating. Stay tuned to RETROactive for additional information on how you may be eligible for one of these spaces.
Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other types of social media can connect heritage conservationists throughout the world. We sometimes get so focused on the brick, stone or wood that we forget that successful heritage conservation is built on relationships between people, according to Kayla Jonas-Galvin, a heritage planner based in southern Ontario. Social media websites allow user to create and share content with each other. In her keynote address at the 2014 Municipal Heritage Forum in Lacombe, Kayla highlighted the many ways social media enables communication between heritage professionals and members of the public.
Kayla speaks from experience. She has worked for the Heritage Resources Centre (at the University of Waterloo), the Architectural Conservatory of Ontario and ARA Heritage. She finds that social media is a key tool in promoting heritage conservation. She is responsible for, among other things, founding the #builtheritage twitter chat – a twitter chat sponsored by the U.S. National Trust for Historic Preservation. What started as a small group of heritage conservationists discussing heritage and conservation issues quickly grew into a large international discussion that drew in many people beyond hard-core conservationists.
Kayla emphasised that social media shouldn’t be complicated—it’s just another way to have a conversation. It’s an opportunity to talk to several people, often separated by vast distances, as though they were sitting in the next room. With this in mind, Kayla founded #builtheritage twitter chats to spark discussion of heritage conservation issues with people outside Waterloo. She started the chats by simply tweeting a few people that she was interested in talking to about problems of conserving historic places. The chats quickly grew to attract conservationists from all over the United States, Canada and around the world. People who had never met were suddenly talking to each other about the problems and opportunities they faced when trying to conserve historic places in their own communities. Anyone could participate and in time many people who normally did not think about heritage conservation were suddenly involved. At one point, Gloria Estefan replied to a tweet about the Miami Marine Stadium.
So how do we use these tools? Kayla emphasised the importance of setting goals. Who do you wish to reach and what do you want to say? Facebook and Twitter (just two examples) connect people in different ways. Twitter’s short text messages allow large groups of people to chat in real time, while Facebook allows users to share and comment on pictures and weblinks with friends easily.
Kayla related stories about how social media is bringing heritage preservation into the mainstream. There are many groups on Facebook that love to share old photos. The Vintage Edmonton Facebook page currently has over 11 000 followers. Hundreds of people who probably don’t consider themselves heritage conservationists share pictures and stories of Edmonton’s history.
To be effective, says Kayla, it’s important to have personality and to talk to other people. Don’t treat social media channels as just as a means of delivering announcements—talk to people. Social media is another avenue to start a conversation.
If we all encourage people to share photos, sound records and videos we’re probably going to be surprised by the number of people who want to discuss our common heritage. We need to start asking ourselves what about my heritage can be shared over social media and who do I want to share it with.
It’s not an overstatement to say that the final keynote presentation at the 2014 Municipal Heritage Forum in Lacombe blew everybody away. Larry Laliberté, GIS Librarian at the University of Alberta, opened Forum attendees’ horizons with an intriguing presentation entitled, “Historical GIS: Connecting Collections.”
In his presentation, Larry described how history’s main mode of communication is narrative, while Geography’s distinctive form of expression is visual. If we begin to connect these two methodologies, as can now be done through Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology, it opens the doors to new perspectives and insights. This is what Laliberté described as a type of “visual narrative, a spatial story, a landscape liturgy.”
This shift in thinking from text to visual has been described as a kind of “spatial turn” in the way people conceptualize the world around them, past, present and future. In 2012, the Editorial Journal of Map and Library Geographies (8:177-180), put it this way. It is “a change in thinking from finding and retrieving information from text-based means to doing so visually, from geography or location-based methods.”
One only has to be aware of such popular social media as Foursquare to see how popular and ubiquitous this so-called “spatial turn” has become. GIS technology can give us practical and insightful ways to consider and deepen our knowledge of the historic places all around us. Compelling blogs such as #LostYEG: Lost Edmonton explores how the street scape has evolved over time.
The GIS tools now widely available create an opportunity for “Spatial History.” This is an approach to studying or exploring the historic past that “combines and uses a multitude of sources that can be situation in space as well as time.”
Laliberté used one of his recent projects – which involved historic maps – as a case study to open up the topic for our Forum attendees. He and his team have analyzed 1913-1914 fire insurance plans from the City of Edmonton. These maps were scanned and then geo-referenced with contemporary maps, yielding detailed map layers that could be studied. Additional information gleaned from the 1911 Census allowed researchers to understand in detail the density of the built environment along Jasper Avenue, along with a high degree of demographic detail about the people who lived there at that time. When you mix in archival materials such as historic postcards and other sources, which can be tagged for location, a rich environment of information is created. It was almost something like creating a “Google Streetview,” type of experience for the early 20th century.
As Larry mentioned, this new field of Historical GIS is not an end in itself, but rather a research tool, an approach by which we can access or look at history and historic places. It does not provide the answers to the historical questions we may have, but it certainly does expand the toolkit by which we can begin to construct or unearth those answers.
A big thank you to everyone who helped to make our first Municipal Heritage Forum held outside of Edmonton and Calgary a huge success! We are very grateful for all of you who took the time to attend, contribute presentations or assist with logistics. We hope everyone had an enjoyable time, met some new people and learned about Alberta’s historic places.
We look forward to seeing many of you at the 2015 Municipal Heritage Forum that will be held in conjunction with the Heritage Canada The National Trust conference in Calgary from October 22-24. Stay tuned for information on how you can access one of the free registration passes to what is sure to be a fantastic event.
Written by: Rebecca Goodenough, Municipal Heritage Services Officer
There are just over two weeks left until the Municipal Heritage Forum gets underway in Lacombe. After upping our numbers (twice!) we have approximately 20 spots left for those of you who haven’t yet registered. Online registration closes Tuesday October 7th at 11PM.
This year we have another great mix of speakers to get you thinking about heritage conservation in Alberta. In addition to our keynote speakers Kayla Jonas Galvin and Larry Laliberte who will be showcasing our theme of “Conservation Through Technology and Innovation”, we will have nine Municipal Show & Tell presentations and ten break-out sessions. Speakers will be talking about all things heritage including: mapping projects, alteration approvals, heritage awards programs, social media and sustainability (among others), as well as case studies from several Alberta communities who are being creative in their approach to heritage awareness and conservation initiatives. In addition to the presentations, the Lacombe and District Historical Society will be hosting us on a walking tour of historic downtown Lacombe. This year we have the additional fortunate to have the Forum coincide with the biennial AHRF Awards ceremony.
Click here to access a copy of the Forum program, including descriptions of the presentations.
There are always new people to meet and great conversations to be had. We look forward to seeing you there!
Kayla Jonas Galvin is deeply involved in creating social media content. She tweets at @jonaskayla and has her own blog Adventures in Heritage. Kayla works as the Heritage Operations Manager at Archaeological Research Associates where she runs the Twitter (@araheritage), Pintrest (ARAHeritage) and LinkedIn Accounts. She sits on the board of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario, which focus on heritage education and advocacy in Ontario. There she is the social media manager for their Facebook and Twitter (@arconserve) accounts and Editor of their ACORN magazine. Her previous employment at the Heritage Resources Centre at the University of Waterloo involved managing their social media and communication, as well as developing Building Stories, a crowd-sourced survey of historic places across Canada.
Kayla will be speaking about how social media can assist in the conservation of local historic sites. Kayla will explain the power of social media to conserve local heritage places and how you can tap into it. She will give a brief introduction to the social media sites of Facebook and Twitter as well as introduce Building Stories, a crowd-sourcing site. Drawing on her experience managing multiple platforms for businesses and not-for- profit organizations she will share practical lessons on how to use each effectively to engage your community.
Larry Laliberté is a librarian with over ten years’ experience working with GIS and spatial data. Currently he is the GIS Librarian at the University of Alberta where much of his work revolves around analyzing and synthesizing spatial information at many scales, across many disciplines, in various formats. Over the last decade, he has developed and maintained an online collection of historical maps of Manitoba and recently, taken a great interest in developing best practices for the long term preservation of digital geospatial data.
Larry’s presentation will focus on how Historical GIS can be used to link collections. Over the past ten years, many historical library collections have been digitized (textual, numerical, photos, maps) and made available online; however, they often exist on standalone platforms isolated from other digital collections. Using the 1913/14 Fire Insurance Plans of Edmonton as an example, Larry’s presentation will highlight how thinking spatially about local digital collections and combining the power of GIS and geovisualization can open up interesting ways of linking collections.
Please join us October 16th and 17th in Lacombe to hear these heritage advocates share their knowledge.
Written by: Rebecca Goodenough, Municipal Heritage Services Officer
We are pleased to announce that registration for this year’s Municipal Heritage Forum is now open!
The Forum is being held on October 16th and 17th at the Lacombe Memorial Centre in the City of Lacombe. The theme for this year’s Forum is “New Ideas for Historic Places: Conservation through Technology and Innovation”.
Our keynote speakers for this year include Kayla Jonas Galvin of Archaeological Research Associates in Kitchner, Ontario and Larry Laliberté, GIS Librarian at the University of Alberta. Kayla specializes in social media and will be speaking about how you can use social media to conserve local historic places and Larry will be presenting his research on the application of Geographical Information Systems and geovisualization to linking local digital collections.
A preliminary version of the Forum schedule is available here. Registration is available online. Space is limited so please register today.
We look forward to seeing you in beautiful Lacombe!