The preservation of historic structures remains an enormous challenge - not all can or should be preserved as museums or historic sites. Finding appropriate uses for historic structures is challenging but well worth the effort. When this has been done in combination with arts and cultural programming, the community benefits, as these are generally locations for cultural tourism.
Historic buildings serve as grace notes in cities and towns lending them that special sense of place that suggests that a community has been there for years. The Government of Alberta's Main Street Programme has done a great deal to nurture preservation efforts at the community level. Various organizations at the local level have taken on this mandate, for example, the Old Strathcona Foundation in Edmonton.
Protection of historic buildings, sites and places can occur through federal, provincial and/or municipal legislation. At the federal level, this is afforded through the Federal Protection Program. Further, a national leadership role in the preservation of the built heritage has been played by the Heritage Canada Foundation.
The Historic Sites and Monuments Board is a commemorative program that advises the Minister of Canadian Heritage and, through him or her, Parks Canada, on the commemoration of nationally significant aspects of Canada's past, including the designation of national historic sites.
Provincially, Alberta Culture and Community Spirit (formerly Alberta Community Development) has been a leader in the development of legislation and support programs. The Heritage Resource Management Branch has preservation and planning specialists who advise individuals and communities about the designation process and standards for restoration. Funding support is provided through the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation, which initiated the Alberta Main Street Programme.
At the local level, generally speaking, there is some protection afforded to historic buildings. The cities of Edmonton and Calgary have heritage planners in their employ and there are incentives for designation and preservation. The national Historic Places initiative has been designed to empower municipalities to better manage their built heritage.
In Edmonton, the Edmonton Historical Board was established in 1966 (originally the Archives and Landmarks Committee) to advise City Council on matters relating to history and heritage. In Calgary, the Heritage Advisory Board was established in 1979 to advise City Council on heritage issues.