Heritage is strongly linked to the memories, values, beliefs, and traditions that are told through the stories of place, time, people, and community. It is almost impossible to label something “heritage” without first recognizing its human, social connections.
Heritage is our “inheritance” that has been passed along by past generations. It describes the unique identity of a community, differentiating it from neighbouring towns and areas.
Social value includes memories and emotional associations, the identities of distinctive characters, and the connections to places and its people. These strong values of people and place mean heritage is inextricably linked to economic vitality and liveability through the attraction and retention of citizens, businesses, and tourists.
Social value can also relate to social cohesion and inclusion, community empowerment and capacity building, confidence, civic pride and tolerance, and opportunities for learning, and skills development.
Analyzing available heritage research in Canada, Parks Canada produced the following statistics in their report “Historic Places Matter: Gathering Evidence on the value of Historic Places to Canadian.”
The Government of Canada offers the following employment information in the report: “Survey of Heritage Institutions, 2017 Report”:
The heritage sector employed over 36,300 people in 2015, a 15% increase over 2011. Part-time employment comprised the bulk of the work force (over 18,900) and experienced the largest increase since 2011 (2,537 new employees). Full-time employees numbered just over 12,500 in 2015, an increase of roughly 1,020 new employees over 2011, while staffing of contract workers numbered approximately 4880 in 2015, an additional 1,082 employees over the same time period.
Overall, the age breakdown of full and part-time employees in the heritage sector is as follows: approximately 31% are under 25 years of age, 37% are between the ages of 25 to 44, while 24% are between the ages of 45 to 59 and almost 8% are 60 years of age and over.
As demand on the heritage sector increases with the growing Canadian population and the expansion of domestic and international tourism, so do the expectations of its workforce to protect and make accessible the increasing list of significant artefacts and records collected and maintained throughout the country. To help achieve their mandates, heritage institutions rely heavily on volunteers. This is especially true in institutions with smaller budgets. In 2015, the heritage sector received assistance from over 115,650 volunteers. Contributing over 6.6 million hours, volunteers provided a wide range of essential services, while saving the heritage sector millions of dollars. To put these numbers into perspective, 6.6 million volunteer hours equates to approximately 3,200 full-time equivalent positions, and if one were to apply only a minimum wage salary to that equation (in 2015, the average minimum wage in Canada was approximately $10.42) it would total nearly $70 million in savings.
Use the intrinsic-instrumental-institutional framework to develop a well-rounded description of the social context of heritage in your community. Here are some suggestions to help you get started. (Read this short introduction to our recommended approach to making a case.)
Social value is well suited to emotional and spiritual qualitative assessment.
Social value largely relies on qualitative assessment and so it can appear to be generally subjective.
In this case, it may be helpful to also think beyond your organization to the broader “institution” of heritage.
The economic value of Heritage by Xavier Greffe University of Paris I (Pantheon- Sorbonne) (source)
The Social and Economic Importance of Heritage Preservation, Town of Essex, Ontario (source)
The Social and Economic Value of Cultural Heritage: a literature review by Cornelia Dümcke and Mikhail Gnedovsky, EENC Paper, July 2013 (source)
Wrestling with the Social Value of Heritage: Problems, Dilemmas and Opportunities, Journal of Community Archaeology & Heritage (source)
Government of Canada, Survey of Heritage Institutions, 2017 (source)