Keeping Community Connected During COVID

ECF grant helps Edmonton Heritage Council continue to connect community organizations through pandemic

It can be tempting for us to think of our heritage in terms of physical objects: the buildings and artifacts that announce themselves to us because of their obvious age. But, as Danielle Dolgoy of the Edmonton Heritage Council explains, people coming together is really what makes heritage come alive, the stories people tell each other helping them create a shared history.

“Last year we began holding meet-and-greets for some of our grant recipients, and it was just amazing, the effect it had in making peoples’ work visible to people, and the opportunity for collaboration it sparked,” she says.

Many of the organizations the Heritage Council funds are smaller, and don’t necessarily see all the connections they have to communities outside of the ones they’re helping to remember. So, when COVID-19 robbed them of the chance to meet in person, the Council sought $20,000 from Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF) to help find other ways of connecting them.

“Sectors in our city grow stronger with collaboration,” Nneka Otogbolu, ECF’s Director of Communications and Equity Strategy, says. “This grant was a natural fit for the Foundation as the Edmonton Heritage Council strives to continue connecting organizations and people with each other.”

Though some of the funds just went to help these small organizations stay afloat through a rough year, a portion has also been directed to building a series of online webinars hosted by heritage consultant Catherine C. Cole. Aimed at helping teach regular people the skills museum curators and anthropologists use, so those people can use them to document their own communities, gives the Council a chance to keep building a community feel, even at a distance.

“The challenge for people who don’t have the background is that they don’t know where to start,” explains Cole. “I’m not an expert in their culture or their area of interest, but I can help them decide how they want to define that culture and help them with the technical aspects of preserving that heritage.”

Thanks to the ECF funding, Dolgoy adds, they are able to provide these programs for free, and get them to people who might not otherwise have had the time or resources to be able to attend intensive, in-person workshops on the subject — and even record them, so they can still be teaching people when COVID is just a part of our heritage.

Dolgoy hopes the webinars, open to anyone who is interested, might spark a newfound historical interest from people who have become acutely aware of the fact they’re living through history at the moment — and won’t have much else to do through the winter.

“Winter is a good time for this, actually, it’s a time for sharing and storytelling,” she explains. “One of the things we’re very aware of is a need to correct some of the imbalances in the historical record. Our hope is that in 100 years, there will be a much more dynamic and diverse body of knowledge about what living through this pandemic was like, for instance.”

Learn more about ECF’s COVID-19 response.