Level one messages or messages of national significance are based on the reasons why the site was commemorated a national historic site. Effective communication focuses on what knowledge and understanding as many people as possible should have regarding the national significance of the site. This involves communicating the national significance of the Canal, plus the provision of contextual information which provides the essential context for people’s historical knowledge and understanding of the place.
The information outlined below is intended only as a communications framework. These are key messages upon which a heritage presentation program should be developed.
8.1 Messages of National Significance
The messages of national significance for Rideau Canal NHS are:
- the construction of the Canal system;
- the survival of a high number of original Canal structures including locks, blockhouses, dams, weirs and original lockmasters’ houses plus the integrity of most lockstations;
- the unique historical environment of the Canal system.
The message of national significance for Merrickville Blockhouse NHS is:
- it is a fine example of the best type of blockhouses erected for the defense of the Rideau Canal.
8.2 Context Messages
As many people as possible should understand the following contextual messages:
- the importance of water transportation in colonial Canada in the first-half of the nineteenth century;
- the transportation and supply problems encountered defending Upper Canada during the War of 1812;
- the military purpose behind the construction of the Rideau Canal;
- the role of Lt.-Colonel John By in engineering and supervising the construction of the Canal;
- the difficulties encountered constructing the Canal such as the environment, logistics, engineering challenges and working conditions;
- the impact of Canal construction on the natural environment including impacts on drainage patterns, the destruction of large areas of forest, the flooding of thousands of hectares of land which created new wetlands, islands and lakes;
- many of the corridor’s highly important ecosystem features were created by the Canal builders;
- the impact of Canal construction and the opening of through navigation on the development of eastern Ontario - lumbering, settlement, agriculture, and manufacturing development;
- the impact of Canal construction and the opening of through navigation on the founding of the city of Ottawa;
- the reasons for the survival of most of the Canal’s engineering structures and the system’s remarkable record of continuous operation since 1832;
- the differing parts or sections of the Canal corridor - urban, rural, natural, agricultural, recreational - and how each contributes to the unique historical environment of the system;
- the different historical phases evident in different sections of the Canal corridor;
- the historic and present importance of water management for Canal operations and ecosystem management
- the high level of skill and workmanship exhibited in the construction of the Merrickville Blockhouse.
8.3 Effective Communication of the reasons for national significance
The effective communication of the reasons for national historic significance of the Rideau Canal as expressed in the messages of national significance and the context messages, will be achieved when:
- the overall presentation experience conveys these reasons;
- the public, both visitors and non-visitors, exposed to a heritage presentation experience understand the reasons for the site’s national historic significance; and
- the effectiveness of communication is measured and monitored.
The Site’s Heritage Values Are Respected
In addition to those resources and messages deemed to be level one, the Canal possesses other associative and physical historic values that contribute to the site’s heritage character and heritage experience. Included in this section of the commemorative integrity statement is the Tay Canal, which is not considered part of the original Rideau Canal system, but is deemed to be part of the level two heritage values of the present Canal.
Additional heritage values of the Rideau Canal include:
- its post-military operation, maintenance and administration;
- its evolving use - commercial to recreational;
- its evolving role with corridor communities and the heritage value of the Rideau corridor;
- the construction and operation of the first and second Tay Canals;
- its role in a larger international canal network;
- the continuing relationship between the Canal - its resources and operations - and the corridor’s natural environment.