In 2008, the Fort Simpson Historical Society (FSHS) and the Open Sky Creative Society (OSCS) joined forces and registered a new society, the Heritage Centre Society (HCS). The HCS undertook to continue the work that had been initiated by the FSHS to restore, renovate and use the Roman Catholic Sacred Heart Rectory (the Rectory) as a Heritage Centre. Under the mandate of the HCS, the Heritage Centre would include space for artifact displays, archival collections, artistic exhibits, gift shop and workshops. The Heritage Centre would also provide permanent office space for all three societies.
The FSHS purchased the property on which the Rectory stood from the Roman Catholic Diocese of the Mackenzie and contracted an architect to develop blueprints for the renovated Rectory. During the course of developing a proposal to secure funding for the Heritage Centre project (the Project), the HCS developed programs, policies, and staff job descriptions for the Heritage Centre. Funds were secured, materials were purchased and a contractor was retained in 2009. However, unforeseeable defects in the building required that the structure be demolished. The foundation was stabilized and the basement capped in 2010.
By 2011, the resources available for the Rectory project had been spent without construction of the building complete, and the work on the Project was stalled. In 2012, HCS contracted New Horizons to conduct a feasibility assessment to determine the level of community support for the Project, whether the Project requires amendment, and identify where possible potential partnerships and financial resources could be available to the Project. After conducting stakeholder interviews and community meetings, it was recommended that the Project move forward with the completion of the original project while seeking a partnership with the University of Alberta and accessing all potential funding possibilities.
In 2012, Open Sky Creative Society informed HCS of its intention to withdraw from the Society’s Board of Directors. Since HCS’s bylaws state that its board is to be comprised of members of OSCS and the Fort Simpson Historical Society, the HCS was dissolved and its work revert back to the FSHS. In this reorganization, it was decided that this was also a good time to examine the priorities for heritage and cultural programming in Fort Simpson and the Dehcho as a whole.
On February 21 and 22 of 2013, HCS held two community meetings to gain input from community members on the future direction of a heritage and cultural society in the Dehcho. Through the feedback gathered during these meetings, it became clear that participants felt that a society is needed to play an important role in coordinating heritage projects and initiatives throughout the Dehcho.
The original objectives of the Fort Simpson Historical Society (FSHS) are as follows:
a. To preserve buildings and sites of historical significance in the Village of Fort Simpson and the immediate vicinity (such as the original site of Fort of the Forks, the house at Rabbitskin River, the house at Two Islands and Fort Alexander at Willow Lake River.)
b. To collect, preserve and display artifacts.
c. To collect, record and publish stories, legends and historical data.
d. To preserve all of the above for the benefit and education of local inhabitants, visitors and
These objectives aligned extremely closely with the goals and objectives developed through the 2013-2018 Heritage Centre Strategic Plan. It was therefore decided by the Board members of these two organizations that with the folding of the HCS, the FSHS would take on this strategic plan as their own. The strategic plan outlines the mission, goals, objectives and specific steps to be taken by the FSHS to develop and provide heritage and cultural programming throughout the Dehcho.