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Heritage Resources
Management (HERM) 501
Issues in Heritage Resources Management

Revision 1 closed, replaced by current version.

Delivery mode: Grouped study

Credits: 3

Prerequisite: None.

Centre: Centre for Integrated Studies

Program: Graduate Diploma in Heritage Resources Management


HERM 501 invites students to discuss and debate formative issues in Heritage Resources Management from a number of perspectives and in terms of the major areas of heritage practice in museums, historic places, archives, and other heritage institutions and agencies. Heritage Resources Management is a process involving:

  • identification of the various elements of the past that a society defines as its heritage
  • the determination of why and how these associated resources are significant
  • what is entailed in conserving and using them in a manner that respects them as a public trust.

Since the 1960s, there has been massive growth in Heritage Resources Management activity in most parts of the world. Museums and historic sites of many sorts have appeared, and greater effort than ever before is spent preserving, documenting, and interpreting historical and artistic artefacts, heritage landscapes, historic buildings, and historic districts in towns and cities.

Such growth has raised important questions about heritage activities. What does this growth reveal about Canada’s concerns as a society and about the forces that are shaping Canada’s culture? What practical demands do these concerns pose? What characterizes contemporary practice in collecting, exhibiting, and public programming? What challenges face the heritage sector in its public trust and public service responsibilities?

These questions concern everyone in the heritage sector because all aspects of heritage work are increasingly converging. Several decades ago, people working in museums, historic sites, archives, and on the conservation of historic buildings and districts saw themselves as working in separate fields and drawing on different traditions and motivations. For many this is still true, but there has been a remarkable melding of the issues that all heritage workers face and in their responses to the particular needs of their fields. For example, they increasingly define public purpose and audience needs in much the same way; they follow many of the same practices when displaying, exhibiting, and conserving artefacts and historic places; and they design public educational programs using many of the same principles and methodologies. In other words, heritage has developed a community of practice.

Course Structure

HERM 501: Issues in Heritage Resources Management consists of ten units:

  • Unit 1: Heritage Resources Management.
  • Unit 2: Types of Practice: Museums and Archives.
  • Unit 3: Types of Practice: Historic Places Management.
  • Unit 4: Structuring Practice: Governance and Ethics.
  • Unit 5: Justifying Heritage Through Tourism.
  • Unit 6: Who Controls the Past?
  • Unit 7: What to Keep and Why: Determining Heritage Significance.
  • Unit 8: Conservation.
  • Unit 9: Approaches to Heritage Education.
  • Unit 10: Interpretive Programming.

Course Objectives

This course provides you with the opportunity to

  1. analyze the types of practice that characterize the heritage field.
  2. understand the ways that social context shapes activities in the heritage field.
  3. analyze current and emerging issues.
  4. analyze and explain social controversies, ethical questions, and approaches to practice that characterize the contemporary heritage field.
  5. assess methodologies and approaches to heritage policy, collecting, conservation, research, exhibiting, interpretation, and planning.

Course Evaluation

To receive credit for this course, you must successfully complete the following assignments.

Assignment Weight
Experiential Journal (ongoing)
Online Participation (ongoing)
Moderate Online Discussion Forum
Critical Review of an Online Exhibition
Term paper

Course Materials

Textbooks/Resource Books

The Standard Practices Handbook for Museums, 2nd ed. Edmonton: Alberta Museums Association, 2001.

Important note: The Standard Practices Handbook will be used in other courses in the Heritage Resources Management Program. You must keep your copy of this book if you intend to take other courses in the program.

In Time and Place. Master Plan 2005. Edmonton: Alberta Community Development, 2005.

Athabasca University Materials

The course print materials also include a reading file.

The course electronic materials include

  • A course Moodle home page
  • A digital reading room
  • A study guide
  • An assignment file
  • A study schedule

Students are encouraged to browse the Athabasca University’s library website to review the Library’s collection of journal databases, electronic journals and digital reference tools.