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Vol 38  No 13
April 27, 2006



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Forum to explore preservation of living heritage

By Leslie Vryenhoek

Hauling a cod trap like this one at Calvert on Newfoundland’s Southern Shore requires understanding how the trap works, and the influences of tide and fish movement. This knowledge is part of our living heritage.

A forum on intangible cultural heritage ­ or “living heritage” ­ taking place on the St. John’s campus this June will give those involved in local heritage preservation an opportunity to learn from world experts.

“Intangible heritage is the stories, customs and knowledge that people pass on that are relevant to a culture,” explained Memorial Folklore professor Dr. Gerald Pocius. Some Canadian examples would include the art and craft of woodcutting or soapstone carving, the oral traditions of storytelling, Acadian fiddling, and the know-how to build a birchbark canoe or a fishing boat in outport Newfoundland.

Dr. Pocius has been working in this arena for several years. He represented Canada on the team that drafted UNESCO’s Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, which came into force internationally on April 20 ­ ironically without Canada as a signatory.

“Intangible heritage is not like a building. It’s living knowledge that adapts and changes, and must be passed on,” Dr. Pocius said. “If it’s lost, it can never be restored.”

Organized in collaboration with the Association of Heritage Industries, the Heritage Forum 2006 is expected to draw international experts such as Rieks Smeets, head of the intangible heritage section of UNESCO in Paris, and participants from across the province and the country.

The conference is both an opportunity to work together on strategies for the preservation of our living heritage, and a chance to highlight some of the unique cultural aspects of this region. Those who attend can also help develop recommendations for provincial government policy.

Heritage Forum 2006 happens from June 7-10.

Information about events and registration can be found at For more on living heritage, see


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