Better know a Canadian cultural touchstone: Heritage Minutes

Following my last post, which mentioned the famous Hinterland Who’s Who TV spots, I got a request to mention Canada’s other frequently-parodied series of public-service commercial for stuff you ought to have been taught in school.

The Heritage Minutes, those famous hammily acted, sparsely scored history tableaux narrated by This Hour Has Seven Days co-host Patrick Watson, are formally titled Historica Minutes: History by the Minute. They were created for the CRB Foundation, the pet project of blue-blooded rumrunner scion and pillar of the Jewish community Charles R. Bronfman (hence the Foundation’s name). The first Minutes aired in 1991 during a one-off history quiz show on the CBC hosted by avuncular singing eccentric-botherer Wayne Rostad.

Sponsors of the Heritage Minutes included the Department of Canadian Heritage, Canada Post, Bell Canada and Power Corp.

New Minutes were produced until 1999, when the CRB Foundation became the Historica Foundation, and continued to air on CBC and CTV well into the 2000s, soaking up the networks’ Canadian content requirements.

The Historica-Dominion Institute, as it is now known, has recently restarted making Heritage Minutes. It made two for the War of 1812 in 2012, two for Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir George-Etienne Cartier earlier this year (which I went over here ) and two for World War I later this year.

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One comment

  1. Nicki Thomas

    Hi Jeremy,

    Thanks for your interest in Heritage Minutes – just a couple corrections on your post. They were called “Historica Minutes: History by the Minute” during the Historica Foundation’s ownership period; now they’re just Heritage Minutes. The Historica-Dominion Institute inherited the collection in 2009, and we are now called Historica Canada. The National Film Board created a few Heritage Minutes – Wilder Penfield, Inukshuk, for example – but did not create the bulk of them. The Canadian Encyclopedia is the most reliable source for info on the collection: http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/heritage-minutes/

    Nicki Thomas
    Heritage Minutes Coordinator
    Historica Canada
    nthomas@HistoricaCanada.ca

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