The Trust adapts many of its heritage buildings for re-use as museums, leased spaces, offices or conference and reception facilities. It uses state-of-the-art conservation techniques to ensure that a building's heritage character is retained while the building continues to serve a useful function.
Ownership is not the only way the Trust preserves Ontario's built and cultural heritage. For example, over 200 built heritage sites are protected by conservation easements – voluntary legal agreements between the Trust and owners that protect the heritage features of these sites in perpetuity.
The Trust takes a comprehensive approach to conservation – following a three-stage conservation process that is sensitive to community needs and integrates the work of archaeologists, architects, conservators, historians, museologists, planners and site managers – as follows:
First, a property is identified as a heritage site. Archaeological, architectural and historical research is conducted.
2. Protection and preservation
The property is protected through measures that may include repair, restoration, maintenance and even legal means, such as conservation easements.
The conservation of a heritage building is sensitive to the existing structure. When the Trust restores a heritage building, it uses techniques that match the original work yet preserve the patina of age and changes made in different eras. Alterations that are necessary for modern safety codes, energy conservation and public access are made as unobtrusively as possible.
3. Interpretation and use
Finally, to complete the conservation cycle, most restored properties are opened to the public. Interpretive displays and exhibits ensure that visitors can appreciate the property's importance to Ontario's heritage. Where possible, heritage properties are used to generate revenue. This revenue helps maintain the site and assists the Trust in its work across the province.