“Heritage…is an environment that has a sense of place.”
Jacques Dalibard is best known as the Executive Director of the Heritage Canada Foundation from 1978 to 1995. Throughout his life, he made significant contributions to the heritage preservation movement in Canada and around the world.
Beginning his career in preservation, Dalibard contributed to the restoration of historic buildings across Canada as the Chief Restoration Architect for the National Parks and Historic Sites Branch of the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs. There, he aided in defining Canadian built heritage distinct from the European focus on castles and cathedrals. Later, as Executive Director of the Heritage Canada Foundation, he would promote the idea that Canada’s built heritage is found in its vernacular expressions. He would continue to expand the definition of heritage in Canada to include the built as well as the natural environment, arguing the two are indistinguishable from a conservation perspective.
Throughout his life, Dalibard wore his passion for heritage preservation on his sleeve. As a founding member of the professional association for preservationists, the Association for Preservation Technology (APT), he created a forum for preservationists to share knowledge and created standards thereby professionalizing and legitimizing their practice. The APT credits him for running the organization out of his house during its formative years. He also contributed to the training of conservationists by teaching, notably during his term as Director of the School of Preservation at Columbia University. As an educator, he emphasized the use of original tools, materials, and methods as well as historical research to understand each object’s particular and general background.
While defining Canada’s preservation movement and its priorities, Dalibard also brought Canada to the world stage by serving as the President of the Canadian committee of the International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS). He used this position to criticize the organization’s Eurocentrism and encourage it to revisit its purpose as an international organization. As a representative of UNESCO, Dalibard was asked to join a mission to Cyprus in the wake of the Turkish invasion to evaluate the destruction of cultural property. He would refer to this experience throughout his career when commenting on the subject of preserving cultural heritage during armed conflicts and posit that governments and even international treaty organizations such as the United Nations are not capable of protecting cultural heritage on their own. As with all preservation movements, the protection of global cultural property must be undertaken at a grassroots level.