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Autumn Update

This blog has been silent for the past month but not for lack of activity at SWIHHP! The highlight of September was Bronwyn Jaques’ walking tour of the Inner Harbour on September 20. All of us who went appreciated hearing about her research and becoming more grounded in that beautiful space. The next phase of that project is to condense the material into a mobile app walking tour for the City of Kingston’s new platform. With the app, people will be able to see the archival images and hear Bronwyn narrate the history on their smart phones whenever they want. We may also do a longer version for Stones.

And we have been working on three grant applications to help us extend our work next year. Two City of Kingston Heritage Grant applications have gone in. One would allow us to collaborate with CFRC radio to hire an oral history coordinator and an audio producer, and to develop community trainings in oral history. I love the idea of sharing the training I had this summer at Oral History Summer School (yes, this is a thing!), equipping others to be confident and sensitive interviewers who don’t fret about their equipment. Well, maybe that’s a high hope: we all fret about our equipment. But still, I think we can set people up well and then have more interviewers joining the project and devising their own projects. The second application is in collaboration with the Friends of Kingston Inner Harbour, and it is to do a book, a kind of compendium of archival materials and images, oral history, historical essay, newspaper materials from the past, and so on. I am inspired here by several books including Mary Alice Downie and M.-A. Thompson’s Written in Stone: A Kingston Reader (Quarry, 1993). When I first moved to Kingston I was so happy to find that book, especially the bit from Champlain’s journals where, just outside Kingston, he gets lost in the woods chasing a bizarre bird that sounds like a parrot. Or at least that’s how he remembered it. A more recent model is The Ward, edited by John Lorinc and others (Coach House, 2015), that gathers material together about the area just north of City Hall in Toronto, an area now home to hospitals and hi-rises, but that used to be the centre of immigrant life in that city. It’s a beautifully designed book, paperback and black and white and thus affordable, but visually arresting and attractive in its varied content. So, the idea there would be to start gathering materials and have that book ready to go in a couple of years.

And then there’s the third application. In this one, SWIHHP just plays a bit part, but it’s still exciting. Nancy Douglas, a local artist whose show The Murphys of Griffintown was one of the Modern Fuel Gallery’s opening exhibits this past January in its new space at the Tett Centre, is applying to do a community art project in the Swamp Ward, and she wants it to focus on history. You may have met her at the door this summer in one of our street “swihhps”– you’d remember her blazing red hair and her warmth. She’s partnering with an ad-hoc group of community members, of whom I’m one. The idea is to hold a series of workshops inviting people to explore neighbourhood, family, and personal history through art. Nancy is wonderful, so full of ideas and skills and talent. I really hope she gets the grant, and if she does, you will hear more about opportunities to participate next spring.

So I guess you could say we’ve been gathering in nuts for winter. And now that those applications are in, and my teaching year at the university is launched, I hope to get back to the long list of people who have offered to be interviewed! It’s an enticing prospect. A cup of tea, and a good story. A perfect autumn afternoon.

— Laura Murray