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Careers In Culture

Heritage - What You Need to Know

Challenges and Opportunities

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Welcome to the world of storytelling

Careers in Heritage – Choices for You

What is a career in heritage? It's bringing to life the stories of our personal, community and national heritage. Some stories are about our landscapes and streetscapes and how they have evolved. Some stories are about important events and objects (artifacts) from our past. There are many ways of telling these stories. You could be a conservator working with old paintings, textiles or furniture. You could be a webmaster, overseeing an online exhibit. Or an archivist handling documents and photographs. Perhaps you are hooked on historic buildings and like working with wood – then a career in carpentry might be your goal. If you're interested in keeping the past alive, then you will be joining thousands of people with stories to tell about Canadian heritage.

Getting Started

People who work in heritage have a passion for something from the past. Take totem poles, for example. Conservators preserve them, while restorers make them whole again. Historians and museum interpreters tell their stories. First Nations people reclaim them. Photographers record them. Artists paint them. Digital media producers create multimedia presentations about them. Writers describe them. Each person, in his or her way, is keeping the stories of the totem poles alive. Do you have a liking for a particular time, place or thing? Then you already have the beginnings of a career in heritage.

Personally Yours

Have you ever thought about your personal heritage? Does your family have heirlooms, keepsakes, diaries – treasures that represent special moments in the lives of an aunt or great-grandparent? If the treasures could speak, what stories would they tell? Many Canadians have created work from their personal heritage. For example, an author may write a biography of an ancestor; a dancer could keep her Acadian roots alive by performing traditional works; a language interpreter could translate the stories of his tribe's elders and record them for the future; and a web designer could create an online family tree. Do you have family stories that you would like to keep alive? Your personal and family history could be the starting point for your heritage work.

Street Stories

Community heritage – what is it? It can be stories about a particular geographical place such as a town or city. It can also be stories about a “community of people” – those who are connected through ancestral roots or other social ties. Canada has many communities because our country is home to many different peoples. Each group has its “community” stories with its own history, values, religious beliefs, arts and traditions. Are you interested in a career relating to community heritage? You could be a tour guide showing people your community's architectural heritage, a booking agent organizing a festival, or a developer maintaining historic facades in the downtown core.

The Big Picture

Add up all the stories of each Canadian, and you have one large story that explores many questions. How did the land shape our culture? What forces of history created the nation we have today? If you're interested in how our values and beliefs as a country developed, then you could become an art curator preparing an exhibit of Canadian images, a television producer creating stories about changes to our environment, or, perhaps, an historian teaching early Canadian history at university or college.

Heritage trivia quiz


Question 1: Where's the largest stash of dinosaur bones in North America?

  1. Newfoundland
  2. Alberta
  3. Yukon

Question 2: What do the following have in common - "The Big Train," "The Iceman," "The Roadrunner," and "The Rocket"?

  1. They are the nicknames of hockey superstars Lionel Conacher, Eddie Shore, Yvon Cournoyer and Maurice Richard, respectively.
  2. They are titles of award-winning Canadian animation films.
  3. They are names of vehicles.

Question 3: How many First Nations languages are alive today?

  1. 10
  2. 23
  3. 50

Question 4: How many libraries are there in Canada?

  1. 1,500
  2. 8,000
  3. 19,000+

Question 5: How many museums do we have in Canada?

  1. 500
  2. 1,000
  3. 2,500

Question 6: How many people visit Canadian museums annually?

  1. 9 million
  2. 29 billion
  3. 59 billion

Question 7: How many World Heritage Sites are found in Canada?

  1. 4
  2. 13
  3. 15

Question 8: Where are archival records found in Canada?

  1. At Library and Archives Canada and other provincial, territorial and municipal archives
  2. At corporations, non-profit organizations, religious institutions and other organizations that create information
  3. Both of the above


1. B
The Drumheller Badlands is home to one of the world's largest cache of fossils and complete dinosaur skeletons.

2. A
Between them, these four Hall of Famers played 61 seasons of NHL hockey.

3. C
Unfortunately, the most recent statistics report that even the two major aboriginal languages in Canada, Cree and Ojibwe, once considered "safe", are now threatened.

4. C
These include college, university, public, special (corporate, non-profit and government), school, and electronic libraries.

5. C
Canadians paid over $410 million dollars in admission fees in 2003, to museums that include history, art, science, natural history, open-air, and other specially museums.

6. C
Heritage sites in Canada are seeing a steady growth in visitors, with museums being the most popular destination.

7. B
Canada's 13 sites: L'Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site; Nahanni National Park; Dinosaur Provincial Park; Kluane / Wrangell-St Elias / Glacier Bay / Tatshenshini-Alsek; Head-Smashed-in Buffalo Jump; SGaang Gwaii (Anthony Island); Wood Buffalo National Park; Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks; Historic District of Québec; Gros Mome National Park; Old Town Lunenburg; Waterton Glacier International Peace Park; and Miguasha National Park.

8. C
Archival records are kept by most public organizations, be they tiny historical societies, or national institutions and corporations.