Typology: Large, Urban
Model: Owner with Third Party Community Groups
Owner: Parks Canada
Third Parties: Halifax Citadel Society, The Army Museum
The Halifax Citadel is a restored military fortification that sits atop Citadel Hill, built to defend the town against enemies beginning in the 18th century. Today, the responsibility of interpretation is shared by Parks Canada, Halifax Citadel Society, and The Army Museum, who each contribute to animating the site in a unique way. Drawing on their individual strengths, the partners provide a rich experience for visitors and are creating a dynamic asset for the community. As the owner, Parks Canada is responsible for the maintenance and repair of the Citadel buildings, establishes the overall interpretive objectives for the site, and manages the main fixed exhibits. The Army Museum is a non-profit organization that has operated a museum within the building in the Citadel since 1953. Parks Canada contributes funding for the operation of the Museum.
Since 1993, the Halifax Citadel Society has actively supported the interpretation of the Citadel. Primarily focussed on the living history of the site through costumed re-enactments and musical performance, the Society supports its activities by managing the site’s facility rentals, operating an onsite retail and catering business, and running a Pipe and Drumming School. The Society also partners with a local distillery to offer thematic tours and tastings of the spirits aged at the Citadel.
Flexibility on the owner’s part to welcome partnerships to the site, recognizing that such groups are more closely connected to the local community, has set the stage for the Citadel’s success. Although Parks Canada holds their own interpretive expertise, they have made room for the Society and Army Museum to tell aspects of the site’s story in their own distinct ways. While Parks Canada leads the direction of interpretive development and develops the Citadel’s core exhibits, The Army Museum focuses on military-based collections and exhibits. The Society rounds out interpretation through personal and experiential offerings such as military re-enactments, performances, and tours.
The passion and entrepreneurial spirit of the third-party partners pushes them to accomplish things that the owner is not able to do due to bureaucratic limitations. By nature, smaller organizations have greater flexibility to try new ideas and access other sources of funding; they can also be more outward looking and have access to contacts that owners often do not. For example, when the Society collaborated with the local Tourism Centre to have costumed staff welcome cruise ship passengers as they arrived, or by offering a paid service for off-site ceremonial guards played by costumed staff.
The partners are critical to the success of Parks Canada’s site – a fact that is recognized by those involved. The Halifax Citadel is more integrated into the community than it would be without the partners, attracting new visitors in ways the owner could not do alone. While remaining closely linked to the military history of the site, the activities are conceived and implemented in creative new ways, and the multiplicity of interpretive offerings creates a more dynamic site, as a result.
A driving factor in Lougheed House’s success is that the Society exists solely to operate the site. Their function is clear, and there are few conflicting interests directing the course of their work.
Owners of multiple historic sites are most often (but not exclusively) governments from all levels, and they are faced with several key challenges. Their portfolio of sites likely includes a range of variations, including: site size and location, reasons for the partnership founding, and value placed on the site by the owner and community.