For the last couple months I have been in the Queen’s Archives, going through city directories and doing general research on streets around Skeleton Park for SWIHHP. I have enjoyed my time in the archives, but I was looking forward to getting outside and doing some of the more hands on, interactive research I knew this job would entail. Finally, a couple weekends ago the Skeleton Park Arts Festival rolled around and the moment I was waiting for had finally arrived. Upon first arriving to the park Saturday morning I was blown away by the festivities taking place in the park. Ashamedly, I have to admit that as a Queen’s student, before joining the SWIHPP team, I would very infrequently leave the university bubble and wander beyond the boundaries of our little University district. Before this summer I had absolutely no idea that anything like the Skeleton Park Festival existed in Kingston and this ignorance on my part only added to my excitement on Saturday. After grabbing a coffee and listening to the Brazilian Samba band, I found myself a shady spot under a tree and set up my sandwich board. Over the next six hours I interviewed over a dozen people about Skeleton Park and the Swamp Ward in general.
I think one of the things I was most surprised about at the end of the day, was how greatly my perception of the park had changed. As a Queen’s student from out of town, my only real affiliation with the park is through SWIHHP. Since working on the project my idea of the park has always been rooted in the park’s historical past and its former use as a burial ground. Because of this focus on previous research and records, I naturally assumed that most of the stories people would tell were going to be focused on things of that nature: finding bones, ghost stories, and archaeological digs. And while many people did mention the park’s past, I was surprised by the sheer number of stories that took place last week, last month, last year. I had never considered the park to be the evolving entity that it is; I think that a part of me truly believed its history ended sometime around 1893. That day I heard stories about people bringing their children to the festival, deer running through the park, a middle schooler doing backflips off the swing-set, and Spring Equinox rituals to awaken the tree spirits. All of these stories helped reconfigure my view of the park and will certainly assist me in my research. These stories serve as a reminder that history is an ongoing phenomenon. Just as important as what happened in the park one hundred and fifty years ago is what happened in the park last week; both experiences are inextricable parts of the story of Skeleton Park.
If you have any good stories about the park, it’s not too late to tell them to me: use the contact form on the website!
— Ronen Goldfarb