Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador

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The Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador (HNFL) is a non-profit Crown agency which was established under the Historic Resources Act by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador in 1984 to stimulate an understanding of and an appreciation for the architectural heritage of the province. HFNL is the sole organization in the province mandated to preserve one of the most visible dimensions of Newfoundland and Labrador culture, its architectural heritage.[1]

Between 1970 and 2000 Canada lost between 21 and 23 percent of its historic building stock, 21 percent in the larger cities, and 23 percent in smaller rural towns. The rate of loss in rural Newfoundland and Labrador is nearly double the national average. Where possible, HFNL has encouraged the retention of historic buildings, and promoted the adaptive reuse of older structures for commercial and public functions. The economic benefits of historic preservation - such as total job creation and increased income - surpass those of other investments such as new housing or new commercial construction. Given the powerful economic pump-priming effect of historic preservation, public programs to foster preservation can realize sizable economic development gains often at little or no cost to the taxpayer.[2]

The Foundation supports and contributes to the preservation and restoration of buildings of architectural or historical significance. HFNL designates buildings and other structures as Registered Heritage Structures and may provide grants for the purpose of preservation and/or restoration of such structures. It also designates Registered Heritage Districts, and is responsible for the Fisheries Heritage Preservation Program, a small-projects granting program which assists in the conservation of vernacular buildings and fishing stages associated with the historic cod fishery and other fisheries. HFNL is the provincial crown agency responsible for the administration of the Historic Places Initiative, and nominates provincially and municipally designated heritage sites to the Canadian Register of Historic Places.

In 2003 Tilting Harbour on Fogo Island was designated a Registered Heritage District by the Foundation. It marked first time the Foundation recognized an entire community for its significance to Newfoundland and Labrador's material and cultural heritage.

The Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador holds a series of programs, grants, and designations as a means of contributing and preserving the architectural history of the province. Some of these designations include the Registered Heritage Structure Designation, the Registered Heritage Structure Restoration Grants, and the Registered Heritage Structure Maintenance Grants. Those who want to designate, maintain, or promote a historic site can then submit applications to receive these grants.[3]

Registered Heritage Districts can also be designated through the Heritage Foundation. Heritage districts are geographically defined areas that create a special sense of time and place through buildings, structures and open spaces modified by human use and which are united by past events, use and/or architecture. Heritage districts constitute appropriate subjects for commemoration. Those of provincial significance will include one or more of the following: - A group of buildings, structures and open spaces that are a harmonious representation of one or more styles, building types or periods; - A group of buildings, structures and open spaces of technological or social significance; - A group of buildings, structures and open spaces which share uncommonly strong associations with individuals, events or themes of provincial significance. Above all, a heritage district must have a sense of history, intrusive elements must be minimal and the district's heritage characteristics must predominate and set it apart from the area that immediately surrounds it.[4]

The Heritage Foundation also has an educational role and undertakes or sponsors events, publications and other projects designed to promote the value of our built heritage. In 2008 HFNL was chosen to lead and implement the province's Intangible Cultural Heritage Strategy. Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) or what some call "Living Heritage" encompasses many traditions, practices and customs. These include the stories we tell, the family events we celebrate, our community gatherings, the languages we speak, the songs we sing, knowledge of our natural spaces, our healing traditions, the foods we eat, our holidays, beliefs and cultural practices. Specific examples of our intangible traditions include—among many other customs, skills and practices—Christmas mummering traditions, boat building skills, Aboriginal languages and cultural knowledge, regional dialects, and the expressive culture, values and beliefs of the diverse cultural groups of Newfoundland and Labrador. The mission of this initiative is to safeguard and sustain the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Newfoundland and Labrador for present and future generations, as a vital part of the identities of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, and as a valuable collection of unique knowledge and customs. This will be achieved through policies that support initiatives that celebrate, record, disseminate and promote our living heritage and help to build bridges between diverse cultural groups within and outside Newfoundland and Labrador [5] Preserving ICH is vital to sustaining a community’s innate creativity and sense of identity. Therefore, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has included the preservation of ICH as a key initiative in its Provincial Strategic Culture Plan. The success of this initiative will depend on the careful implementation of a well-developed strategy. A Working Group appointed by the Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation has generated a strategy, gathering input from various stakeholders, and drawing heavily from discussions at the Intangible Cultural Heritage Forum held in St. John’s in June, 2006. This document, the Provincial Strategic Culture Plan, is used in the continuing process of consultation with heritage groups and other interested groups and individuals across the province. It has been formally adopted by the Board of Directors of the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador.[6]

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