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Writing on Heritage: Confessions of a Co-op Student

I have come to expect a specific series of events when I run into old acquaintances and the conversation predictably turns to employment. When I tell people I work for Parks Canada their faces break into big smiles, and I can almost see the visions of bears and picnic baskets dancing in their heads. I then receive a flood of questions and comments. "Wow! How did you land that job?" "You're so lucky!" "Which park do you work in?" The bright-eyed grins and genuinely curious expressions usually dissipate, however, after I tell them I do not work outside, and disappear completely when they discover that I do not get to wear a snazzy ranger outfit. This quick change in emotion is followed by the inevitable question, "Well, what do you do then?" I love this question because it gives me the opportunity to show people that Parks Canada is much more than just National Parks. It gives me a chance to rave about National Historic Sites.

Breadalbane, Parks Canada Agency

I have been working for the National Historic Sites Directorate of Parks Canada as a Co-op student for nearly two years now. As a history major at the University of Ottawa, I could not have asked for a better job. By composing Statements of Significance (SoS) for National Historic Sites and Federal Heritage Buildings I have gained valuable research, writing, and editing skills that I know will be of great use to me in the future. Just by writing these documents I think I have learned more about Canadian history than I would have elsewhere. I've had the opportunity to write SoS for sites related to the War of 1812, the Franklin Expedition, the oil industry, aboriginal history, the gold rush, and countless other topics. This summer I was even charged with writing the SoS for the Parliament Buildings, a monumental task (pun intended) worthy of a field trip to the Hill to take pictures. My favourite SoS that I had the opportunity to work on was for Wreck of the HMS Breadalbane NHS. The mysteries of the famed Franklin Expedition fascinate me, and researching and writing about shipwrecks is a great experience.

I also have a soft-spot for any site located in my home province of British Columbia. Check out Barkerville. Butchart Gardens, and North Pacific Cannery National Historic Sites of Canada!North Pacific Cannery/Conserverie-North Pacific

Not only have I learned a lot about Canada's history and historic places, I have also become somewhat of an amateur architectural historian from analyzing and describing a wide variety of heritage buildings and structures. I can now recognize the Gothic Revival Style, identify gable dormers, and pick double sash windows out of a line up! I love that I can walk the streets of Ottawa and point out interesting architectural elements to my friends and family, "Look at that mansard roof you guys!"

Best of all, I can direct them to historicplaces.ca so that they can see for PCA National Officethemselves exactly what I do and how it is beneficial to Canadians. Seeing my work published on a public Web site and knowing that tourists, students, history buffs and everyone in between are reading the work that I wrote or edited is extremely rewarding. As is knowing that I am contributing to the conservation of Canada's historic places.

So, when I run into people I know and they ask me where I work, I am more than happy to entertain their curiosity and give them the complete rundown of what I do. And, by the end of the conversation, if I've conveyed how much I love my job effectively, the bright-eyed grins return.