Trends in Leadership and Governance at the Municipal Level: The Ottawa Heritage and Museum Scene after Five Years of the Museum Sustainability Plan

Friday, November 8 - 2:05 to 3:20 pm


Henriette Riegel, Executive Director, Diefenbunker: Canada’s Cold War Museum; Laura Gibbs, Executive Director, Ottawa Museum Network; Janik Aubin-Robert, Curator, Muséoparc Vanier Museopark; Paulina Abarca-Cantin, Executive Director, Council of Heritage Organizations in Ottawa (CHOO-COPO); Isabelle Geoffrion, Manager, Watson’s Mill, Inc

Download the Trends in Leadership presentation [ PDF 4.4mb ]

From L to R: Isabelle Geoffrion, Janik Aubin-Robert, Laura Gibbs, Henriette Riegel, Paulina Abarca-Cantin
From L to R: Isabelle Geoffrion, Janik Aubin-Robert, Laura Gibbs, Henriette Riegel, Paulina Abarca-Cantin


Session Description

This panel will examine how local community museums can demonstrate good governance and leadership in local heritage with presentations from two heritage service organizations and three community museums in Ottawa. The strong partnership, with consistent funding and support all the way up to the Mayor, has allowed the museum and heritage sector to build capacity, move forward, and experiment with innovative partnerships, programming, and organizational structures.

Since 2003, the City of Ottawa put in place plans to advance culture to improve quality of life and economic impact on the City, including the Museum Sustainability Plan (2006-2009), which brought significant investments to the community museums and heritage service organizations to improve overall sustainability.  This funding allowed the museums to preserve their collections and facilities, develop audiences, involve communities, undergo strategic planning, and leverage other sources of funding.

Since the MSP investments, longer-term results are beginning to be demonstrated by the sector. The consistent funding and strong partnerships with the City have allowed the local heritage sector to emerge out of the shadows of the national institutions in the capital, and to begin to experiment with new forms of leadership, governance and partnership.

Since 2006 the Muséoparc Vanier has built a strong board of directors with local specialists with diverse skills and experience showcasing  the heritage and history of Vanier’s Francophones and the neighbourhood’s cultural heritage.  The Council of Heritage Organizations in Ottawa is moving towards becoming a true council by broad consultation with the sector and by supporting the sector in working together on key heritage sustainability issues. The Ottawa Museum Network, a new museum service delivery model formed in 2007, has developed and is implementing a flexible, broad-reaching and effective advocacy plan for the network and the 10 community museums. Watson’s Mill has developed a community-based fundraising campaign that has built long-term relationships. The Diefenbunker: Canada’s Cold War Museum has developed unique programming through partnerships with non-traditional community organizations.


Presenter Biographies


Executive Director, Council of Heritage Organizations in Ottawa (CHOO-COPO)
Prior to her current role as Executive Director at The Council of Heritage Associations in Ottawa, Paulina served as Managing Director at Democracy Communications; Director General at Studio XX; Executive Producer at Darwin Dimensions; Director of Development at Big Bang FX Animation; Creative Producer at CD MED; as Distribution and Marketing Executive at Motion International’s Imax Unit and as Artistic Director of Street People Theatre Company. She has served as Intern Director at both The Stratford and The Shaw Festivals. From 2005 – 2008, she developed successful creative and business partnerships across twenty cities worldwide as founding producer of the WIFT International Short Film Showcase.

Abarca-Cantin Paulina


Curator, Muséoparc Vanier Museopark
Janik Aubin-Robert has obtained a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from Trent University and a diploma in Museum Studies from Algonquin College. She has worked at the archaeological site of Minaha in Belize, the Centre franco-ontarien de folklore, the Nepean Museum and the Vanier Museopark where she has been the Curator since 2010. She sits on the Board of Director for the Centre franco-ontarien de folklore and the Comité consultative du patrimoine de la Cité de Clarence-Rockland.




Manager, Watson’s Mill, Inc
Isabelle Geoffrion is the Manager at Watson’s Mill, in Manotick. Since joining the team in March 2006, the organisation grew exponentially: visitor attendance increased from 15,000 to 54,000, membership grew from 11 to 140, and volunteer engagement represents approximately 7,500 hours of service from 160 participants each year. In addition, several significant capital projects were executed in the heritage building, including the “Heritage Roof Replacement Project”, completed in Spring 2013 after successfully raising $500,000 in just under 2 years.



Executive Director, Ottawa Museum Network
Laura Gibbs manages an integrated marketing and public relations campaign for 11 community museums that are part of the Ottawa Museum Network. Laura Gibbs has worked in museums in Sydney Australia, including the Australian Tennis Museum and the Macquarie University Sporting Hall of Fame. Laura earned her Master in Museum Studies in Sydney, Australia and is working towards a Master in Business Administration at Carleton University.

Laura Gibbs


Executive Director, Diefenbunker: Canada’s Cold War Museum
Henriette Riegel has been in the museum field for over 20 years, both as an international museum consultant and in management positions in several museums. She holds an MA in Anthropology from the University of Western Ontario, and an M. Museum Studies from the University of Toronto, and is ABD in her doctoral work in Social Anthropology from York University. Henriette serves on the boards of several local museum and heritage organizations in Ottawa.

Henriette Riegel