May 7, 2018

From time to time our Know History team members contribute stories to the History Hub on things that inspire and interest them. Below is a short piece by Associate Brittney Bos on Carleton University’s annual Heritage Symposium.

It was an early, rainy Saturday morning, but that did not stop people from coming out to Carleton University’s annual Heritage Symposium. A significant event in the Ottawa heritage community, the symposium attracts emerging scholars, seasoned professionals, and veteran academics every spring. The gathering is the perfect place to propose fresh ideas, discuss case studies and learn about new ideas in heritage scholarship. As always, this year did not disappoint.

The symposium topic for 2018 was Embodied Heritage Praxis: Ontologies of Participation and Process. Speakers from a variety of backgrounds interpreted this topic in very diverse ways. More than one paper pushed for the re-imaging of Indigenous perspectives as a form of “contact zones” within the heritage field. Almost everyone discussed how “communities” inform and shape heritage projects and how re-positioning communities at the centre of heritage practice allows it to remain relevant. Later in the afternoon, a professional dancer demonstrated how heritage is embodied in movement and personal identity lives within our bodies. Two students challenged attendees to not only see heritage, but to taste, smell, touch, hear and experience heritage with all our senses. Through interactive displays, these students pushed participants to know built heritage on different levels and challenge our primary sense of “sight” as the only one of significance. Scholars throughout the day presented a variety of case studies, showing how we “do” heritage has an impact on how it is documented and presented. Finally, participants had the opportunity to view an extraordinary new acquisition of the Carleton Library and hear from their donor: a unique collection of damage maps from Germany in the 1940s.

Every year, Carleton University’s Heritage Symposium provides a refreshing space to share ideas and challenge assumptions about heritage research and practice. This supportive and open environment allows emerging scholars to integrate themselves into the heritage world, but also encourages veterans of the profession to see new work. The symposium is also an excellent space to make connections across disciplines, professions, and generations. The organizers for this conference put together an amazing group of individuals, all passionate about heritage scholarship. I left the space that rainy Saturday feeling refreshed, rejuvenated and reinvigorated. With the incredible and diverse scholarship showcased at this symposium, it is clear that the heritage profession is expanding and moving into even more diverse areas of scholarship and practice.

Image Credit: “Travelling in Style to Carleton University.” ca. 1964. Carleton University Library Historical Photographs.