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Willowbank (School of Restoration Arts / Centre for Cultural Landscapes)
Willowbank is an independent and innovative educational institution in the cultural heritage field, operating within a dramatic historic setting. It is home to three distinct but intimately interrelated entities: the School of Restoration Arts, the Centre for Cultural Ladscapes, and the Willowbank National Historic Site. It is at the cutting edge of a global shift towards a more ecological and sustainable approach to heritage conservation. This is a move from the object-centred focus of the 20th Century - historic buildings, landscapes and artifacts in isolation - towards a more holistic view of their interconnectedness and the rituals that sustain them. It is an approach that is dynamic rather than static, and that celebrates the creative continuity of all cultural traditions.
Willowbank uses a cultural landscape framework for its work. It defines cultural landscapes – whether in urban, rural or wilderness settings – as the embodiment of cultural practice. These places reflect the cultural knowledge and aspirations of their inhabitants. The cultural landscapes of different cultural groups and sub-groups often overlap, creating a richness and diversity that needs to be celebrated and nurtured. Willowbank's approach reflects insights drawn in part from its First Nations faculty and associates.
Willowbank believes that theory and practice are inseparable. This sets it apart from most academic institutions, which privilege abstract theory and the classification of knowledge. It also differentiates it from many skill-training programs, which downplay the academic component. Willowbank gives equal weight to hands-on skills and academic performance, and this is central to all its programs. It also welcomes the intersection of the traditional and the contemporary – the study and practice of appropriate contemporary design and craftsmanship skills is part of its mission.
Willowbank has three primary components, which are intimately interconnected. It is a beautiful 13-acre National Historic Site with an impressive 1830s mansion and a richly-layered landscape with 8,000 years of continuous human habitation. It is a School of Restoration Arts, which grants a Diploma in Heritage Conservation to graduates of its intense three-year program. And it is a Centre for Cultural Landscape, which serves as a focus of research, workshops, lecture series, conferences, short courses, and consulting activities related to its mission. The Centre also runs the annual Willowbank Field School in northern Italy.
Willowbank has a highly-regarded staff, led by well-known architect, scholar and educator Julian Smith; an outstanding international faculty; a distinguished Board of Directors; and a rich set of volunteers. Its graduates are leaders and innovators in the field.
The Willowbank community is broad and diverse. It is united in believing that understanding and nurturing cultural heritage is an essential part of a shared and sustainable future.
Willowbank recently acquired the former Laura Secord Public School to allow for much-needed expansion of its operations. The historic school building is located adjacent to the Willowbank estate in the heart of the village of Queenston.
History of Willowbank. http://www.willowbank.ca/content/beta/welcome/index/
Beech, Monique. 2008. Niagara Closeup: A school where students bring history back to life - Restoration. The Standard (St. Catharines), Saturday, November 29, 2008. http://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=1322609
Coles, Penny. 2008. Willowbank director wins prestigious award for lifetime achievement-but he's not done yet. Niagara Advance, Friday, October 17, 2008. http://www.niagaraadvance.ca/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=1252462
Beech, Monique. 2008. Historical gem teaches restoration. Welland Tribune (Welland) / The Standard (St. Catharines), Tuesday, December 2, 2008. http://www.wellandtribune.ca/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=1325504
LeBlanc, Dave. 2007. Willowbank Restoration School: The future of how we'll handle our past. Globe and Mail, September 21, 2007. http://www.builtheritagenews.ca/newsletter_archive/4.html#25