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In 2003, the Heritage Community Foundation was instrumental in initiating Doors Open Alberta—a tool for enabling access to Alberta’s rich heritage. This special event is a major programming initiative that engages communities in architectural heritage. It is also a vehicle for promoting heritage tourism through the metaphor of Alberta communities opening their doors. The program is part of a national and international program that encourages urban and rural communities to open the doors of architecturally interesting buildings to the general public. The initiative empowers local communities to develop an event that showcases domestic, commercial, industrial, religious, educational, cultural and institutional buildings that are both publicly and privately owned. Parks and other heritage landscapes that contribute to “the sense of place” are also encouraged to participate.
The annual two-day events, scheduled between May and October, are organized by communities throughout the province and allow visitors to participate in free tours of buildings that they might not otherwise be able to access. The intent is to make these buildings come alive with stories about the function, the beauty of design, material, construction and people that create our architectural heritage. Where Doors Open is well established, it has become a major tourism driver, not only because of the activities but also for the sense of uniqueness of our communities—their environment, the buildings, neighborhoods, the physical infrastructure, and the people.