Kristin Catherwood, Intangible Cultural Heritage Development Officer
The world of Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) is growing. The term itself is starting to show up in a lot of places - from the local community planning level to university conferences and hopefully into government policy. It even pops up in the media once in awhile, as it did in December on CBC's The Current with Anna Maria Tremonti: "From Poutine to Windchill: Which Canadian 'cultural intangibles' are worthy of UNESCO recognition?' Though CBC didn't quite get all the details right, it's encouraging to see ICH making its way into the mainstream.
Canada is still one of the few countries in the world that has not signed on to the Convention. One of the goals of the Canadian Network for Intangible Cultural Heritage (CNICH) whose chairperson is Heritage Saskatchewan's own Ingrid Cazakoff, is to work towards that goal. The organization is in its early stages, but be sure to like its Facebook page to keep up to date on the latest news and developments. Heritage Saskatchewan and other agencies and groups across Canada are dedicated to working with ICH with or without treaty ratification! There's a lot of amazing ICH work being done as we speak, and here's a few places to check it out!
If you're interested in seeing what is going on in the world of ICH from an international perspective, check out UNESCO's lists of Intangible Cultural Heritage and Registers of good safeguarding practice dating back several years. This includes lists of practices urgently in need of safeguarding. The lists are a fascinating compilation of diverse customs, traditions and practices from around the world, from the expertise of millers in the Netherlands to the Kushtdepdi rite of singing and dancing of Turkmenistan, the list indicates how varied ICH is around the world. As you browse through the list (make sure to click the links to read more in-depth decriptions), think about what sorts of ICH is at risk in your own community, our province, or our country at large. Please share any of your ideas in the comments!
Our friends at the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland Labrador maintain and excellent and frequently updated blog, appropriately named The ICH Blog. It's a great way to keep up-to-date on what the seasoned Newfoundland ICH team is up to, as well as giving you an opportunity to really get to know Newfoundland through its ICH. The most recent post showcases an interview with Lillian Smith from Hopeall. Dale Jarvis, Intangible Cultural Heritage Development Officer for Newfoundland and Labrador also hosts a Living Heritage podcast, with fresh interviews every week on topics dedicated to ICH, folklore, and living heritage.
If you checked out the ICH blog, you no doubt noticed numerous links/references to the Digital Archives Initiative (DAI) at Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN). This excellent repository contains thousands of items of digital documentation of Newfoundland history and heritage. You can search for topics you're interested in and settle in to listen to oral recordings and view photographs and videos. It's an excellent and important resource, and a testament to what can be achieved in the world of heritage documentation.
I've dedicated a lot of this post to the excellent ICH work that continues to be done in Newfoundland, and while there are a number of reasons for the province's trailblazing status in the world of ICH, a primary reason is the influence of the Folklore department at MUN, my beloved alma mater. Decades of folklore scholarship meant that NL had a bit of a leg up in the world of ICH. Folklore and ICH go hand in hand, and this was my training ground for the work I do now. Many fine folklorists who came out of this department are doing important ICH work. The MUN Folklore website contains lots of valuable resources for those interested in the field, particularly under the Folklore and Language Archive.
This is certainly not an exhaustive list of what's new in the ICH world in Canada and beyond, but rather a few resources to check out to perhaps provide some inspiration for the kind of work that can be done. As for what we're up to here at Heritage Saskatchewan in the world of ICH, some exciting new projects are in the beginning stages. More information will be soon forthcoming! In the meantime, if you happened to miss out on all the exciting work we did in 2017, check out our Canada 150 video series, which showcases examples of ICH from across the province, and our Coal in Coronach living heritage project!