Behind the scenes: Commemorative Integrity

Banting House from the southIn my classes at Western this week, we have been learning about the concept of “commemorative integrity.” This concept was defined specifically by Parks Canada for National Historic Sites like Banting House. Because commemorative integrity  is so important to everything we do at Banting House National Historic Site of Canada, I wanted to share some information about it with you.

What’s commemorative integrity, and why is it important? According to Parks Canada, “commemorative integrity describes the health and wholeness of a national historic site.” To possess commemorative integrity, a National Historic Site must make sure that:

  • the resources which make it important are not impaired or threatened;
  • the reasons for the site’s importance are effectively communicated to the public;
  • the site’s heritage values are respected by everyone whose decisions or actions can affect the site.

(These points are paraphrased from the Parks Canada Guide to the Preparation of Commemorative Integrity Statements.)

Here at Banting House, we make sure our National Historic Site is kept healthy and whole using a Commemorative Integrity Statement (or CIS). This document explains what is meant by “commemorative integrity” in the context of Banting House. In general, CISs explain when and why the site is designated, as well as what buildings, objects, cultural landscapes, archaeological sites, and messages are associated with it. It also states what must be done to maintain commemorative integrity at the site. Our CIS answers the question, “What do we need to do to make sure our house and artifacts are cared for, our message is communicated, and our site’s value is respected?”

Our curator, Grant, is very enthusiastic about CISs, and has even assisted other members of the local heritage community who want to create one. “I’m not usually excited about policies,” he was quick to tell me, “but I love working on these.” CISs provide an essential benchmark for the planning, managing, and operating of national historic sites. In plain English: having a Commemorative Integrity Statement on hand is a great way to make sure everyone working with a national historic site understands what’s important about it, and how this importance can be both communicated and preserved.

As I read through our CIS today, I was reminded of the many reasons why Banting House is important to the history of Canada. The statement lists over 20 separate points about the significance of Banting House. Here are just a few:

  • “Banting’s idea and its consequences marked a milestone in the treatment of diabetes.” (More about this can be found in last week’s post.)
  • “Since 1923, this house has been known as the ‘Birthplace of Insulin.'”
  • “Other buildings associated with Banting in this period have been demolished.”
  • “Banting House NHS of Canada is a member of the family of national historic sites in the London area which include Middlesex County Court House, Ridout Street Complex (Anderson residence, Bank of Upper Canada, and Gore Bank of Canada) and Wolseley Barracks.”
  • Sir Frederick G. Banting Square, the time capsule buried there and the Flame of Hope are all part of the continuing story of the search for the cure for diabetes.”

Today we are making a copy of our Commemorative Integrity Statement available on the website. If you ever have the opportunity to work for a National Historic Site, see if you can find a copy of their CIS. It will remind you of all the reasons why the site is important, and inspire you to make sure that importance isn’t forgotten.

This post was written by Stacey Devlin, graduate research assistant at Banting House NHSC. Stacey is a Master’s candidate in Public History at Western University.

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