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Notre Dame fire highlights importance of detailed documentation for rebuilding

Firefighters work near the rose window of Notre Dame cathedral Tuesday April 16, 2019, following the devastating fire Monday night in Paris. Experts are assessing the blackened shell of Paris' iconic Notre Dame Cathedral to ascertain what artifacts can be saved and what has been lost in the blaze. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

The fire that swept through Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on Monday is a reminder that having proper plans and documentation of valued Canadian heritage buildings is crucial.

The Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador cites as an example the Basilica of St. John the Baptist in the province’s capital, which two years ago underwent a digital scan covering every inch of the building.

Executive director Jerry Dick says detailed plans are important for two reasons — restoration and reproduction but also for a historical record if rebuilding is impossible.

But Dick acknowledges there are surely some gaps in his province.

Martin Bressani, director of the architecture school at McGill University, says such gaps are likely in other parts of the country too. But he is confident that Canada’s most prestigious buildings are well-documented and mapped out.

As for Notre Dame Cathedral, Bressani says reconstruction will be aided by the fact there is probably no building better documented in France.

The Canadian Press