Determining Significance of Heritage Resources

Code: AHVS489C
Apply this course towards: Cultural Resource Management

Course description

This course guides you through the process of determining significance of heritage resources, mainly historic places. It guides you through methods to identify values that are associated with historic places and synthesize them into an argument of significance in other words the reason to preserve them.

Historic places are understood as "A structure, building, group of buildings, district, landscape, archaeological site or other place in Canada that has been formally recognized for its heritage value" (Glossary, Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada). It begins by exploring the context of heritage to focus on those influences that frame the exercise of determining significance. You are then guided to apply methods to determine the significance of heritage resources.

Heritage is a cultural construct that emerged from a variety of collective interests and needs. Science, politics, social and economic concerns have all influenced the definition and conservation of heritage resources at various degrees. The legacy of these influences is a rich 'collection' of places administered by government authorities and private owners.

Determining the significance of heritage resources is also a means to articulate the importance of a place in the landscape and for the people associated with it. While Western views of heritage have dominated the field until later in the 20th century, various professional principles, charters, and guidelines have provided the means to respect the diversity of cultural interpretations of what constitutes heritage.

In order to determine the significance of heritage resources, it is essential to recognize and work with the biases that influenced past designations (i.e. places officially recognized by an authority as having significance) as well as integrate the multiple perspectives that come into play in current definitions of heritage.

Learning objectives

  1. articulate the different ways in which heritage value and significance can be understood;
  2. recognize the different types of heritage resources;
  3. identify and analyze different evaluation systems and criteria that meet program goals and stakeholder requirements;
  4. understand the range of information sources that can and should inform a heritage evaluation; evaluate a “place” to determine its cultural heritage value, boundaries and significance;
  5. write a statement of significance; and understand the role of determining significance in values-based heritage resource management. 


  1. Current or prior work or volunteer experience at a heritage/cultural organization or historic site would be an asset. Participants will be required to select a heritage site to which they have physical access to use as their case study. This place will be used as the basis for all of the assignments. It is the responsibility of the participant to ensure they can complete all course assignments and contribute meaningfully to all course discussions by drawing from the readings, their own previous experience and what they learn about their chosen site. Please contact the program office if you have questions.

  2. Access to a computer with a reliable internet connection.

  3. University-level research, writing, and critical thinking skills.


Sean has worked across Canada and internationally in the field of cultural heritage conservation for over 25 years. He has undergraduate degrees in Architectural History / Classical Archaeology from the University of British Columbia and Architectural Design as well as a Masters Degree in Conservation of the Built Environment from Dalhousie University. He has practiced as an independent heritage consultant in Nova Scotia, Ontario, and British Columbia, has been an associate for Commonwealth Resource Management Limited, a Preservation Officer and Heritage Planner for the City of Toronto. Sean has participated on a number of archaeological excavations in the Middle East as project architect as well as supporting cultural tourism development projects in that region. He is a former Board member of the Canadian Association of Heritage Professionals (CAHP) and a Director of the Association for Preservation Technology International (APTI).
Sean worked at the Ontario Heritage Trust between 2001 and 2017 holding a series of positions including Coordinator of the Provincial Easement Program, Manager of the Acquisitions and Conservation Services Department, and Director of Heritage Programs and Operations Branch. He is currently the Director of the Programs and Services Branch at the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport where his team is responsible for archaeology, heritage planning, public libraries, museums and investments in cultural institutions.  

With considerable expertise using legal and land use planning mechanisms to protect cultural heritage, he has provided expert testimony at the Conservation Review Board, Ontario Municipal Board and other legal proceedings. Mr. Fraser has lectures on the topics of archaeology, sustainable design, industrial heritage, cultural landscapes, heritage law, planning, professionalism and adaptive re-use. He also teaches at Willowbank School for Restoration Arts (Queenston). He has lectured at the Université du Montréal, Queens University and the University of Waterloo and is a regular speaker at provincial and national heritage conferences.

Sean lives in downtown Toronto in a heritage conservation district.


What participants are saying

"The methodologies and workflow processes provided valuable transferable skills."


Online format using the learning management system (LMS), Brightspace, over a 14-week period, requiring approximately 12-14 rigorous hours of coursework per week.

Students login to the course and communicate with the instructor and fellow students via the Brightspace course site. This course follows an asynchronous delivery model.

This course will use online text-based notes and/or PowerPoint presentations, forum-based discussions, individual and individual assignments, and print and online readings/resources. In addition to completing assignments and activities, participants are expected to contribute meaningfully and frequently to forum-based discussions weekly. The mode of contact with the course instructor is via email or online forums.

Attendance, participation and decorum

Whether registered as a credit or non-credit participant, you will be expected to:

  • login to the course website on a regular basis throughout each week
  • participate in class activities, and thoughtfully and articulately contribute to course forum discussions by reflecting upon assigned readings and professional experiences
  • submit course assignments on scheduled course deadline dates
  • notify course instructors of any personal leaves throughout the term that will affect class participation well in advance
  • notify the instructor of any situation that will compromise the timely submission of an assignment or activity to work out alternate arrangements well in advance of due date
  • provide work throughout the course that is effectively organized and researched, professionally presented, and well-written
  • interact with colleagues, program staff, and course instructors in a respectful and positive manner at all times


Privacy Considerations

In some cases, participants and the course instructor may discuss examples that reflect an actual situation, institution, or community. In order to create an environment where all feel free to discuss and learn from situational issues, it is asked that everyone respect the confidential nature of the institutions and communities being discussed.

While the site is password protected, note that email and course discussion forum groups are never entirely confidential and are subject to freedom of information and privacy legislation. Your use of these communication tools should reflect the public nature of the media.

We ask that you respect the copyright of any and all course materials and note that these are circulated and shared for the purposes of this course only. Further reproduction is strictly prohibited.

Personal information at the University is protected by the BC Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) and the University’s Protection of Privacy Policy.

Disclosure of personal information to vendors, systems or services storing or accessing that information outside of Canada is restricted by s.30.1 of FIPPA.

Instructors may use a variety of educational technology in a course including internet-based technologies, or web-based applications, cloud services and social media. The use of technology is intended to enhance and/or deliver students’ education and is part of a students’ engagement at the University. Some of these technologies may collect, use, disclose, and store student and instructor personal information.

In some courses, instructors may require students to use educational technology and social media which stores personal information outside of Canada, in such cases, instructors will try to provide options (such as using an alias to register).

If students do not want their personal information stored or accessed outside of Canada, in certain rare instances, courses may not be available to them. If the course is required for the completion of a degree, alternatives will be provided.

Course Credit

1.5 units at UVic or may be taken on a non-credit basis.

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Info you should know:

Continuing Studies statement on use of educational technology

This course will require the use of Zoom and may use other education technology such as internet-based applications, cloud services, or social media. In order to complete this course you will be required to either consent to the disclosure of your personal information outside of Canada to enable use of these technologies, or work with the Division of Continuing Studies to explore other privacy protective options (such as using an alias or nickname).