The idea of a heritage (“museum”) network for Edmonton is nothing new. Attempts have been made in the past, with plans arising as recent as 1999 and 2007. The largest barriers to its implementation were concerns over the network’s potential function and organizational structure, funding, and the time commitment required to keep it going. Simply put, there was a will, but few resources to drive it forward.
After the effort in 2007, heritage consultant firm J. Ross and Associates was commissioned by the Edmonton Arts Council to conduct an environmental scan of Edmonton’s heritage sector. This study fed into the creation of the City of Edmonton’s cultural plan, The Art of Living, commissioned by the Arts Council, which established the Edmonton Heritage Council in late 2009.
By 2012, the EHC had contracted Lord Cultural Resources to create a city museums strategy, which highlighted four main strategic priorities for the network:
- Coordinated Communication and Information Sharing: Each of Edmonton’s museums, archives and heritage organizations can potentially be a partner in networks, information clearing houses, shared programs, and integrated or coordinated branding and marketing strategies—but a central coordinating structure is needed.
- Training: Training support should come through the Alberta Museums Association and the Archives Society of Alberta, while the EHC helps to coordinate and facilitate between Edmonton museums, archives and heritage institutions as required.
- Coordinated Interpretation: Gaps in the Edmonton story would be identified and each institution’s place in that story would become clearer, resulting in a better understanding of the city’s history and heritage.
- Central Support Structure: The main function could be information-sharing and communication, but it also could engage in advocacy with the City of Edmonton, allowing the heritage community to approach the city with one voice.
The first year of the Network’s development was 2013, which saw a number of accomplishments, including well-attended heritage sector consultations and surveys that established priorities over the coming years, stakeholder socials in Fort Edmonton Park and Old Strathcona, the creation of an EHN website to serve as a central resource for the sector, and stronger alignment with the Edmonton City as Museum Project under a broader ‘City Museums Strategy’.
In these early stages of the Edmonton Heritage Network, new connections are forming within the heritage sector and with Edmonton communities, silos are falling, and the entire network has a better idea of how best to move forward.