Values-Centered Management for Heritage Conservation by First Nations

July 31, 2020

Description and Definitions

Values-­centered management (also called values-based management) is the current approach to heritage conservation in B.C. It describes the practice of conserving a historic place based on the associated values of the community. There are no restrictions placed on a place’s age, or what it is that makes it special—it must simply be valued by the community to be important.

“Historic place” is an umbrella term for any physical, cultural or social resource that can be passed from one generation to the next.

“Conservation” means retaining the character and importance a place holds. It does not mean that the identified historic place becomes an artifact, but rather that it remains a useful part of the community and retains its heritage values.

See the Heritage Glossary for further term definitions.

Why Values?

Realistically, if nobody cares about a place, it will not be maintained. In values-­centered management, the community makes decisions about a place based on how they value it. This method encourages the community as a whole to work together to conserve the historic places they value.

Values-­based management is effective because it places importance on historic places remaining functional to a community. It also recognizes that not all historic places are old buildings. For example, in addition to built structures, historic places can include trails, landscapes, spiritual sites, groves, species, bodies of water, etc.

Knowing the values and identifying the physical manifestations of those values (called character-­defining elements) for a historic place acts as a guide for the future decision–making around it. For example, if a building structure is identified with character-­defining elements including “carvings on the front of building,” there is a basis for preventing additions that might change the front of the building. On the other hand, if a place’s only character-­defining element is as a “lacrosse box,” there is good reason to think you could make any necessary changes to the area, including completely replacing a structure, as long as it can still be used for lacrosse.

How to Get Started with a Values-­Centered Approach

A good way to start implementing values-­centered management is to get the community together and start identifying your community values and identity. Then determine which places embody these values. As each place is identified, talk about why it’s important and record the associated values and character-­defining elements. There will likely be a number of values, meanings and interpretations associated with the places that won’t always agree. These different layers of meaning are important to understanding the place and all should be recorded.

An effective way to document the identified values is to brainstorm information for a Statement of Significance, which is made up of a description, a heritage values section and character-defining elements. It should be created for each identified historic place. It explains, in detail, exactly why a place is important to the community and what physical manifestations must be conserved in order for the heritage value to remain intact. This is a strong document to have in place to guide any development or proposed change.

References: Heritage Branch. (2008, July). “British Columbia Register of Historic Places” Factsheet. Retrieved June 2010, from Heritage Branch, Ministry of Tourism Culture & the Arts Website: Heritage Branch.

(2008, July). “Celebrating Your Heritage: Getting Started” Factsheet. Retrieved June 2010, from Heritage Branch, Ministry of Tourism, Culture & the Arts Website:

Additional Resources

Heritage Glossary