The Changing Face of Heritage at Canada’s National Historic Sites

Susan Ashley*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


In order for all citizens to fully belong to a nation or a community, they must have membership in that society's institutions, systems and social relations on both the formal and everyday levels. Heritage sites are public institutions of formal cultural presentation and informal social encounters where society demonstrates community membership. But in a country such as Canada where global economics and popular culture combine with an unprecedented influx of immigrants, how a community imagines itself and articulates its heritage is changing radically. Canada's National Historic Sites (NHS) is among the important public institutions devoted to both the presentation of heritage and demonstration of citizen membership. This paper describes how this institution is adapting to changes in imaginings about citizenship, on both the formal and informal level. It looks at how NHS is expanding the involvement of all citizens in the why, what, how and to whom of heritage presentation, evolving its practices to include ethic minorities in its imaginings of Canadianness. Using as an example a new NHS exhibit and designations related to the Underground Railroad and African-Canadians, the paper considers how historic sites, as formal instruments of the state, can be re-tuned as informal sites of discourse and negotiation about identity, citizenship and belonging.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)478-488
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Heritage Studies
Issue number6
Early online date28 Sept 2007
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2007
Externally publishedYes


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