Moira Nadal, one of this year's recipients of APT DC's Emerging Professionals Sponsorships, attended the 2017 APTI Conference in Ottawa, Ontario. The following is her summary of the workshop.
I was thrilled to receive the scholarship to attend the APT-National Trust of Canada joint conference in Ottawa. Since I work for the National Trust in the United States (NTHP) I was interested to see the types of programming put on by the National Trust of Canada and how it was joined with the technical presentations from APT. There seemed to be two main points of focus for the conference; indigenous heritage and sustainability.
In the opening remarks, it was acknowledged that we were gathered on un-ceded Waginaquan (Algonquin) Anishinabeg First Nation land. Tribal members gave prayers and blessings to open the conference proceedings. I was impressed by the time and space given for the First Nations representatives and the inclusion of the longer and deeper meanings of the spaces we were inhabiting. History didn’t start in that place when the lavish high-style building was constructed. There was then a provocative talk by John Ralston Saul, a Canadian award-winning philosopher, novelist and essayist, entitled People and Place: The Complex Linkage of Our Lives, Our Mythologies, and Our Physical Reality. Ralston Saul framed the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation as an opportunity for real debate and questioning. He highlighted the contrast between concepts of ownership and heritage versus profit. That people who consider that they own a place feel that they can do as they like with it. I think it was valuable to step back and hear this more macro-perspective. So often are we concerned with the details of scheduling projects, reviewing proposed work against the Secretary of the Interior Standards, material compatibility, and so forth. It was refreshing to take a moment to think about who and how and why we intervene with historic places and what those intersections with multiple layers of heritage and meaning might be. Who makes the decisions and who gets to do the work? As practitioners, I think we can begin to lose perspective on some of these larger theoretical questions.
The conference was organized along the following tracks: Documentation and Diagnostics – Understanding Historic Places; Design – Planning the Conservation of Historic Places; Delivery – Intervening in Historic Places; Policy and Practice; Canada 150 – Indigenous Heritage, Diversity, and New Directions; Integrating Old and New – Buildings, Districts, and Landscapes; and Regeneration – Community, Economics, and Equitable Places. I attended a variety of sessions, some technical and some cultural. As some of the presentations were in French, the other national language of Canada, we were provided with headphones connected to simultaneous interpreters. It was very cool and made me feel like I was at the UN.
Several session topics were helpful for potential reviews that I may have to conduct for my position with NTHP. I learned about base isolation for seismic retrofitting of historic buildings, which is immediately useful as I monitor properties in California and Oregon. There were also several presentations where I learned more about testing historic windows in situ to demonstrate their performance under specific conditions and with different modifications to make informed comparisons of retention versus replacement. After having the opportunity to walk around the historic district near the conference hotel, I also appreciated getting to know more about Parliament Hill and the ongoing work at that complex of buildings.
In addition to the presentation panels, there was a very full demonstration hall. It was so valuable to be able to ask questions of the vendors on site and helped me to understand some of the newer products and methodologies I’ve been hearing about. I especially enjoyed the hands-on demonstrations by students from the Heritage Institute of Algonquin College. We shared desserts from the reception while planing molding profiles. Overall, the conference was a great mix of detailed technical presentations, larger cultural and theoretical discussions, and networking with professionals from throughout North America and 20 represented nations.