Meet Patricia Kell, new Executive Director at the National Trust for Canada

Meet Patricia Kell, the new Executive Director at the National Trust for Canada since November 2023.


1. I care about historic places because:

Historic places are tangible links to our past. They are places to tell the stories about where we came from, who we are, and what values should guide us in moving forward.  Historic places ground us (literally!) as individuals, communities, and nations. They are sometimes beautiful, sometimes awe-inspiring, but always make me think about the world in richer more nuanced way. Each one is unique, with its own story, physical attributes and intangible connections. Historic places can be important to whole nations or can be treasured only in the context of a person’s individual history.


2. A historic place that matters to me is:

I recently found a small box at the back of drawer with three hand-made nails in it.  The note said that these nails came from the Hamilton house, where my great-great-grandparents once lived. I remember visiting that house as a child with my family one summer.  The house had been abandoned and was vacant. But it was still a place to connect to the past, to family, and to place. The autumn after we visited, that house burned to the ground. This house, and the houses of my grandparents with their wonderful attics and back stairs, matter to me as connections to my personal past – and remind me of the fragility of those places and connections.


3. The place that every Canadian should see at least once in their life is:

York Factory (MB). Or Dawson (YK). Or L’Anse aux Meadows (NL). What do they have in common? Each has an exceptional setting and unique resources that testify to their historic importance. They are all now remote but each was a hub of world-changing activity at a time in the past.  They were all on the leading edge of the interactions between Europeans and Indigenous peoples. Their stories are demonstrative of how those relationships developed in the last 1000 years. Each is a humbling reminder that places and activities that are very important today (economically, in particular) will one day be cast to the very edge of awareness.


4. If I were a historic place, my architecture style would be:

If I were a historic place, I would not assume that my architecture was the most important thing about me! Those flashy buildings with their flying buttresses and Corinthian columns are not more valuable or interesting than cultural landscapes or archaeological sites. If I were a historic place, I would have a many-layered story and be a place where people come today to feel connected, refreshed and inspired.


5.  My idea of “heritage” is:

My idea of heritage is broad. Heritage includes traditions and practices. It includes things like food, dress, dance, language, stories, music and song. It includes skills that are handed on from one generation of practitioners to another. Heritage makes life richer and more meaningful. It builds a bridge between individuals and between the past and future.