Heritage buildings are rich, even complicated, repositories for anyone interested in our history. They connect us to our forebears, to their ideas, their ways of life, their hopes and dreams and even their disappointments. Some of these buildings also help tell major stories about our past, about the currents and torrents of history — settlement, economic growth (and decline), political conflicts, cultural and scientific advances, social change.
All of the subjects that can be attributed to a heritage building can be called values. And for anyone involved in the conservation of a heritage site, it is imperative that the values for their building be clearly articulated and understood. In Manitoba, various governments have protected more than 700 sites that are understood to have value to the community or the province. Most of these sites have been recognized for their cultural heritage values, which can be analyzed with reference to the following three broad categories:
Those technical issues (style/tradition, material, function, craftsmanship) that typically are associated with the architecture of a building
Those broad historical issues (historical theme, social/community, cultural, spiritual, scientific, educational) that often are connected with a person, group or event associated with a building
Those contextual issues (relational of historic place to site/setting, contribution of historic place to greater context) that help make a building a significant part of a whole
Each designated building in Manitoba possesses its own distinct constellation of values. A clear and concise expression of these values is a key goal of ongoing promotion and conservation. Indeed, heritage building conservation is based on this foundation, with the understanding that a clear expression of a building's core values will ensure that decisions made about it—maintenance, research, interpretation, promotion, repairs, conservation—are directed at the right places. In short, values-based management will be a tool that can be used by owners to clarify purpose, focus resources and interpretation, avoid mistakes and protect their investment.