The city’s stories

May 8, 2012

Filed under: Storytelling in our lives — Megan Lau @ 5:08 pm


Our dear designer Kate Moore is leaving Echo next week to go back to school (She’ll be staying on as a freelancer). As she was handing over some of her tremendous institutional knowledge a few weeks ago, she mentioned to me how much of an asset the City of Vancouver Archives would be to me in my role as a photo editor. I’m truly looking forward to diving into their fonds while working on our book projects, but in the meantime, I’m really enjoying their Twitter feed; it reminds me that history layers itself on the same 365 days, and that there are enough stories and pictures of this city to keep me fascinated and curious forever.

I should extend a hat tip to the Vancouver Archives for referring me to two great city history blogs, as well:

  • Past Tense Vancouver pairs a black and white image from the archives with a fragment of Vancouver lore.
  • The Dependent runs a daily feature called “This Day in Vancouver.”

History steps out of the archives in the community-run project Vancouver Street Stories. Nine plaques can be found on Fraser Street between 20th and 44th Avenue:

Each plaque location has its own identity, including a Foursquare check-in. Each plaque also corresponds to a page on our Vancouver Street Stories website, where anyone can leave a comment as long as it has some relevance to the plaque location. It’s an experiment in what we describe as digital placemaking that we hope visitors on the ground and online will embrace.

If you have a smartphone, you can get more info or leave your own stories:

For example, you walk up to the corner of say 28th & Fraser. There’s a little sign attached to a city lamp standard that says, “scan here”. What you get back to you is a little factoid about the ‘hood. For example, “Did you know someone was buried under the street at this spot in 1887 because of a deep snowfall that year stopped all horse carriages?”

Users are encouraged to share their own stories (“This is where I first saw the woman I married,” for example), developing the plaque into a living document of the neighbourhood’s collective history. This project is ripe with possibilities. I hope we explore and riff on some of them here in upcoming Echo projects. I’m wonderfully inspired by how these passion projects bring light and new meaning to the archives’ treasures.