Trust Questionnaire: Marion Cumming

Made famous by writer Marcel Proust, the Proust Questionnaire is said to reveal one’s true nature. We asked a National Trust member to complete our own version of the Proust Questionnaire to get to know them a little better.

My home base is in: Oak Bay, BC, on the Salish Sea, bordering Victoria, on unceded Lekwungen land.

I have been a National Trust member since: The early 1970s when the Heritage Canada Foundation was founded (and a monthly donor more recently).

My concept of heritage: It began with a focus on interesting and inspiring architecture and land formations. It now includes what is invisible to the naked eye and goes beyond what might be buried in the ground. It embraces an appreciate of intangible heritage and cherishes an evolving sense of place and culture.

I got involved with the National Trust because: Canada needs an articulate national voice in defence of heritage structures and landscapes, along with cultures such as Indigenous tangible and intangible heritage. There is a growing awareness of the value of retaining and repurposing cultural markets.

I care about historic places because: They are a visible record of layers of stories that evolve over time, representing architectural and design trends of the times. We can be as moved by a sod hut on the prairies or a cabin in the Yukon as by a revered 17th century landmark in Quebec. And centuries-old sacred sites on Haida Gwaii, BC can be as moving as geological wonders in national parks.

A historic place that matters to me is: Agawa Canyon National Park, near Sault Ste Marie, ON, a place of wonder over the centuries. Advice to visitors: “Be gentle to every living thing in the park” speaks volumes.

The place that every Canadian should see at least once in their life is: Their own home, years later. There may be a new appreciation or different evaluation related to the original dwellers on that land, subsequent builders and modifications and stories associated with it can be shared. A friend built a small wooden cabinet for me. It’s engraved “Storybook for this Heritage Home,” and I hope the Victoria Native Friendship Centre will add fresh memories to the contents after they inherit this old family home.

Photo by Tony Bounsall