Salvage Program or Savage Program?

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On Monday October 15th I gave a delegation to Heritage Advisory Committee regarding the Town of Aurora’s all but defunct Architectural Salvage Program.

The purpose of which was to follow up on an item I brought before the committee almost a year ago, which I posted on here : http://christopherwatts.posterous.com/a-program-worth-salvaging

Since it’s inception back in the late 1960’s the committee has been running am ineffectual, ill-conceived and poorly implemented program that has never reached, and likely would never reach its goals. 

In my original presentation I encouraged the committee to commission an audit of the program and report it outwards to council and the community as a whole.

Unfortunately due to the exit of the previous Heritage Planning manager this item has been sitting on the committee’s pending list with no action.

In its current form the Architectural Salvage program is itself an obstacle to honouring Aurora’s heritage and one the committee needs to work diligently to reshape from the ground up or disband entirely.

What has been exceptionally frustrating is that as Aurorans we don’t know what we don’t know.

Here’s a short summary of what we do know we don’t know:

1.) There is no inventory of items.

The process that was supposed to be followed was listed as follows:

“An inventory listing all salvaged heritage building material will be available from the Heritage Advisory Committee of Aurora, or the Community Planner.  The inventory will list the each item in storage, with a brief description, including dimensions and material of each item, as well as a photograph.  Each item in the inventory will also be assigned a collection number.”

Apparently that never happened.  The only explanation given by the previous Heritage Planning Manager was an unacceptable comment speaking to lack of resources.

As a community we need the following answers:

Exactly what items has Aurora salvaged?

Where are they located?

What condition are they in? 

2.) No new artefacts are being salvaged.

It was announced that no new items are being salvaged because there is no space to receive them.

As buildings continue to be demolished, and council and the community as a whole are reassured that items will be salvaged, apparently this is not true.

How many buildings have fallen recently with no items salvaged?

Who makes the decision that artefacts will or will not be salvaged?

3.) Artefacts were salvaged with different purposes.

Apparently some artefacts were gathered to be part of Aurora’s Museum.
Others were salvaged for adaptive re-use with the intent of offering them back to the community.

Unfortunately with no inventory how is anyone supposed to ascertain which is which?

As items are located both at the old library building and in the basement of Church Street school if their are items that are supposed to be part of the Aurora Collection, then why are they not being included in the current cataloguing of items that are being done to prepare the transfer of that collection to the town?

More questions need answering:

Artefacts were gathered for a purpose, what is it? 

How best can items salvaged for adaptive reuse to date be re-purposed?

All of these particulars should have been identified in an over arching strategy and then flushed out with the appropriate procedures, but that never happened.

Ironic that the program document itself, on page 6 states:

“Without a strategy to identify, salvage and re-use heritage buildings proposed for demolition, these historical, cultural and architectural connections to Aurora’s past would be lost forever”.

You can read the document in full here:

Aurora Architectural Salvage Program.pdf
Download this file

I suggested at my previous delegation that if the program was not in operation this document should be pulled from the website and the committee agreed.

Conversely many towns and cities operate professional reclamation/salvage and adaptive reuse programs.

When I approached the committee last week I suggested they consider reviewing the city of Regina’s model which can be found on-line here: http://www.regina.ca/business/heritage-programs/preserve-heritage-property/heritage-materials/

The strategy document includes a framework for a Heritage Building Reuse Program and a Materials Review Committee.

Given the recently discovered inexcusable efforts on behalf of the Aurora Historical Society regarding Aurora’s artefacts the work to date on behalf of the individuals involved to date with this effort should in no way be lauded as an achievement.  

It is an embarrassment.

If anyone was serious about salvaging items they certainly wouldn’t have gone about piling them on one another in the amateur fashion as evidenced in the photograph above.  This photograph was one of many presented to the committee back in September of last year.

Given the fact that the town is already under way with a 3rd party asset management company identifying the Aurora collection the opportunity is upon the town to correct the shortfall of these artefacts, to which there are no ownership issues.  The town owns them, they simply need to do the due diligence that the committee has failed to provide to date.
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