7.0 HERITAGE PRESENTATION

7.1 The Importance of Presenting the Rideau Canal Story

Heritage presentation refers to interpretation, communications and outreach education programming that provides opportunities for enjoyment and active learning. The purpose of heritage presentation is to provide visitors with opportunities to appreciate and understand the Rideau Canal, first as a national historic site, and as part of the Rideau Waterway, a Canadian Heritage River. Opportunities also exist to learn about its history and its cultural and ecosystem values and to engage and motivate Canadians to participate in the preservation of this heritage.

Presentation of the reasons why the Rideau Canal is a national historic site is fundamental to ensuring commemorative integrity and is thus a program requirement as identified in the Historic Canals Policy and Cultural Resource Management Policy. The Commemorative Integrity Statement identifies the messages of national significance and other heritage messages, see Appendix A, Commemorative Integrity Statement, section 8 and section 12.

Sweeney House at Jones Falls
Sweeney House at Jones Falls, Rideau Canal Photo Collection

Costumed staff at the Sweeney House present to visitors the story of the life of a lockmaster in the 1840’s.

7.2 Current Heritage Presentation Activities:

  • Heritage presentation programs at Ottawa Locks, Merrickville, Jones Falls and Kingston Mills based on the heritage resources and stories at these sites, consisting of displays and personal services interpretation.
  • Parks Canada co-operates with and supports the Rideau Canal Museum in Smiths Falls, which presents the construction, operation and use of the Canal.
  • Interpretive panels at most lockstations present a combination of nationally significant and other heritage messages.
  • A variety of brochures and other interpretive media and presentation of heritage messages by staff.
  • Presentation of heritage messages by museums in Canal buildings (Bytown Museum, Chaffey’s Museum, Rideau Canal Museum, Merrickville Blockhouse), and by other museums along the Canal.

7.3 Heritage Presentation Challenges:

  • The State of Protected Heritage Areas 1999 Report has rated the communications program as fair. This indicates a need to improve the heritage presentation program.
  • Greater opportunities exist to work with partners such as the Friends of the Rideau and the Rideau Canal Museum in the delivery of Canal messages.
  • The full potential of the community museums on Canal lands and those along the corridor as partners in heritage presentation has not been realized.
  • There is a need for an evaluation system in place to determine the effectiveness of the heritage presentation program.
  • Outreach and educational programming have high potential for growth.

7.4 Rideau Canal Heritage Presentation Audiences and Their Needs:

Heritage Users

The visitors and residents who take an active interest in the heritage of the corridor seek opportunities to enrich their knowledge and understanding through special programming and avenues to pursue their own research about the Canal.

Corridor Residents/Stakeholders

Corridor residents/stakeholders have expectations similar to those of other Canal visitors, with the added interest in the Rideau Canal as a heritage presentation leader in the corridor. An ongoing program of communicating Parks Canada’s messages is required to encourage resident and stakeholder support for efforts to achieve commemorative integrity.

Students and Educators

The education community seeks a wide range of heritage presentation products, from lockstation tours to outreach programs to website information, with a preference for products that meet the following requirements: 

  • material linked to the current school curriculum and tailored to specific age groups
  • low-cost,
  • convenience in locating information about and preparing for the Heritage Presentation experience,
  • opportunities to expand learning (e.g. materials available for research projects).
Tour Groups

Tour expectations may vary, depending on the age and interests of the group, but all share some basic expectations:

  • established tour programs,
  • flexibility in program length, scheduling, etc.,
  • facilities (washrooms, parking) to accommodate groups,

Educational group tours make up a large part of this audience, and some of their specific educational needs are listed above.

One emerging audience that is particularly receptive to Parks Canada messages is the Learning Travel market. Requirements of this group include:

  • enriched programming,
  • services associated with the special needs of seniors.
Off-Site Audiences

Outreach to urban populations and others who may not have an opportunity to tour the Rideau Canal in person may be accomplished through:

  • website content,
  • Parks Canada’s Engaging Canadians Strategy.
Recreation-Focused Visitors

This group includes boaters, picnickers, skaters and other users who are drawn by the Canal’s recreational appeal rather than its historical significance. These visitors have few specific expectations with regard to heritage presentation, though there is great potential to build on their appreciation of the Canal’s heritage values through: 

  • interpretive signage,
  • presentation of heritage messages by informed lock staff,  
  • heritage presentation programming.
Orientation Kiosk at Beveridges Lockstation
Orientation Kiosk at Beveridges Lockstation,
Rideau Canal Photo Collection

Most lockstations have these facilities which provide basic visitor and interpretive information.

7.5 Strategic Goal:

To provide opportunities to understand and appreciate the cultural and ecological values of the Rideau Canal National Historic Site and Canadian Heritage River within the national context of protected heritage areas.

The Spirits Rising Program brings the history of the Canal alive
The Spirits Rising Program brings the history of the Canal alive.

Canal Interpretive Staff - Steve Weir
7.5.1 Key actions by Parks Canada:
  • Present a basic heritage message at all lockstations about the national historic significance of the Rideau Canal.
  • Present national messages related to the system of National Historic Sites at key strategic locations.
  • Continue to present the Rideau Canal story in greater detail at the five major interpretive nodes (Kingston Mills, Jones Falls, Smiths Falls, Merrickville and Ottawa Locks). Where required, modifications to the existing presentation programming will be made to more fully convey the heritage messages as identified in the Commemorative Integrity Statement.
  • Present site specific resources and messages at the remaining lockstations based on the messages identified in the Commemorative Integrity Statement.
  • Present messages related to the national significance of the Rideau Canal and Parks Canada national messages through outreach and education programs including internet websites, learning travel, school programs, etc.
  • Parks Canada will monitor audience satisfaction and the level of retention of messages in order to determine overall program effectiveness.
Photo Collage of the Rideau Canal Museum
Photo Collage of the Rideau Canal Museum, Rideau Canal Photo Collection

The Rideau Canal Museum in Smiths Falls presents the story of the Rideau Canal through displays, artifacts and models.
7.5.2 Key Actions in Co-operation with Others:
  • In collaboration with the tourism industry, heritage attractions, educators and community partners, promote the Rideau Canal corridor as a premier cultural heritage learning experience and destination.
  • Support community museums on Canal lands and elsewhere in the Canal corridor in the presentation of the key messages related to the national significance of the Canal.
  • Work with the Rideau Canal Museum in Smiths Falls as the primary focus for presentation of the Canal.
  • Co-operate with other heritage interests to communicate the cultural and ecological values of the Canal corridor to encourage public involvement and private stewardship.
  • Develop an outreach program for young Canadians focused on messages of national significance.
  • Establish an ongoing program of evaluating the effectiveness of the program and making changes to ensure optimum delivery of key messages.
  • Co-operate with the National Capital Commission and other partners to enhance the interpretation of the Canal within the National Capital Region.
Poonamalie Lockstation
POONAMALIE LOCKSTATION