When I arrived in Victoria for APTI a few days ago, I was fussing over my presentation, worrying about how to craft a meaningful story in 20 minutes. As APTI 2011 comes to a close, I have been reminded how the presentations are just the beginning, the jumping off point, for the real purpose of this conference: the discussions, new connections, and new perspectives gained from your colleagues after the presentations are over. It’s about getting this community together, stirring it up, and keeping it hot. One of the strong themes at this conference has been about community in preservation: how to engage the community, make them part of the process, and keep them invested in their heritage. This starts here, with this preservation community, and reminds us how important it is to feel connected and have a voice in any community.
I took one of the afternoon walking tours on Friday and enjoyed talking with attendees from all over Canada, Brazil, and the US. But I was also ready for a break, and took a roundabout way back to the hotel through a wonderful little bungalow neighborhood, full on snug, trim homes whose gardens were edged with the last drooping rose bloom. It ended dramatically at the water’s edge near Clover Point on the south side of Victoria. Basalt cliffs dropped to sparking water with the blue hills of nearby islands in the distance. Here, the locals were taking their kids home after school, walking their dogs, and basking in the sunshine. This was a unique urban place, heavily used and valued by its community, young and old, walking or in wheel chairs. What a different city this would have been without this emerald edge. High land cost might have caused high rise development and increasing demand for a waterfront view. The coast might have been restricted by gated communities.
I enjoyed my long walk back to hear the closing keynote speaker, Carolina Castellanos, who reminded us that we were all stakeholders in World Heritage. Even if our nation states were not signatories to World Heritage conventions, we remained stewards of our heritage. We were part of this international community with important roles to play in the communities where we live and work.We need to engage our friends and neighbors, reach out to marginalized groups in our work, and keep the community involved. Who else will look after our projects after we are done?