Towards the end of the summer of 2021, staff at the 1000 Islands History Museum began working on developing new COVID-friendly programming for the community. This hard work resulted in the development of Gananoque’s own Heritage Walking Tour App.
Using archival photos, mainly from the Town of Gananoque Civic Collection, the Walking Tour App allows participants to see the shifting or constant use of Gananoque’s built heritage over the last 200 years. Participants are also able to learn about local stories and legends that make our heritage buildings come alive in an entertaining, engaging, and interactive manner.
Library and Archive Canada’s Documentary Community Heritage Program
The development of the Tour was an exciting time at the Museum and was a fun project. Staff got to comb through archival photos, research interesting stories and legends, and talk with community members about the project, as well as listen to their own experiences in many of Gananoque’s heritage structures. Of huge benefit to this project was the digitization of the Town of Gananoque Civic Collection, made possible from a grant the Museum received through Library and Archive Canada’s Documentary Community Heritage Program. This program continues to be an ongoing project with many town citizens continuing to be supportive.
One of the most exciting features of the walking tour is the slider function. This allows you to see the transition of a historic building from its original use in Gananoque to its current use. In some cases, participants can see complete changes in buildings on one site! At other sites, participants can see how some buildings have not changed, rather, the surroundings around the buildings have changed.
One of the most interesting and fun parts of developing the tour was having the opportunity to be detectives of sorts and try to determine where some buildings in town once stood. Some sites were incredibly difficult to piece together what they once looked like. International Square was by far the most difficult section as the site has changed multiple times over the last two hundred years or so.
In the future, the Museum will look to expand to the Walking Tour to include the west and east ends of town, as well as add more locations to existing sections. We are also looking into developing themed tours which may dig further into the history of some buildings.
The Walking Tour App also has vast potential to be used as an educational tool in schools as well as within the Museum's own education programs. While local history/heritage forms a small portion of the Ontario academic curriculum. Using the app from a geography perspective, it is possible to see where the core of Gananoque was established and was developed. From a historical perspective, the growth of Gananoque as an industrial hub and its subsequent demise will allow students to develop an understanding of the past, and how and why these changes occurred.
While the Walking Tour does not have a specific section on the Gananoque or St. Lawrence Rivers, there is the potential to develop this into a portion of the tour to focus on the interrelationship between the human and natural landscapes in the region.
During early 2022, Museum staff and GISS teacher Robyn Ableson-Barker began work on the development for a program for high school students using the Ontario history curriculum. Using selected stops from the Walking Tour App related to WWII, students will be tasked with routing out a spy ring that has established itself in Gananoque that is looking to sabotage Gananoque’s industrial efforts in WWII. Using content from the Walking Tour App, students will be required to answer questions about each industrial site that will allow them to thwart the efforts of the spy ring, while getting the chance to walk around town and explore these heritage sites and structures. The Museum is grateful to Robyn and her students who assisted in the testing phase of the program’s development.
The Museum is also appreciative of community members who assisted in the development of the Walking Tour App, whether that be through telling stories, providing images, or assisting in the development of tour content. If you would like to contribute more or if you have stories, photos, or any information you would like to share with the Museum about Gananoque’s heritage, please reach out to us.
The tour is now available for use online and is also available for downloads on both the Apple and Google Play stores. Check out the web-based app here or go to https://gananoque.stqry.app/ and start exploring!
By Mathew Thivierge
Mathew Thivierge wrote this article for TI Life while he was the 1000 Islands History Museum's Coordinator, where he oversaw the day-to-day operations, led exhibit development, and assisted with creating the Gan Walking Tour App. Museum Director Joanne Van Dreumel, the Board, and the museum staff all wished Mathew great success in his next venture as the Museum Manager & Curator at the Frontenac County Schools Museum, a position he assumed in August 2022. TI Life joins in wishing Mathew well, and we hope he’ll continue to find new and interesting material to share over the winter months."
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