The aim for the quasi-capstone project assigned in HIST*4170 is to apply a humanities topic in a digital way and describe its academic rationale. In order to do this I wanted to apply a topic near and dear to my heart, as I find is it always more enjoyable working on a subject I can relate to on a personal level. That is why I have chosen to implement an exploration into my hometown Elora, Ont.
Goals and Project Context:
The main goal for my project will primarily focus on educating others on the development of Elora throughout the years. The village was first founded in 1832 by Captain William Gilkinson who saw prospect in the great falls that ran through the landscape as a means of providing waterpower to run the mills he hoped to build (Allan). Since then the small village began to formulate and grow into the quaint tourist town that it is today.
I believe it is crucial to hold onto the history of the town and give society, especially the community of Elora, an understanding of how the town developed and progressed over the years in order to better suit the needs and demands of its growing population. The idea is to provide a cultural history of the town, focusing on the construction and upbringing of the downtown area. This will be done through a comparison of several maps and photographs that have been taken throughout the last several decades.
The project will also touch upon research as a project such as this based on the expansion of Elora has never been formulated. Historical data of Elora has been gathered over the years but nobody has taken the chance to compose research and chart the growth that the town has experienced and questions why that growth is.
As previously stated, data on the cultural growth of Elora over the years has never really fully been completed. Creating new data to represent the expansion of the town over time will reflect a change in population, alteration in demand and ultimately reveal the transition that Elora slowly took into becoming a tourist town.
What this means is that while there are many historical representation created on the different stages on Elora throughout the years, nobody has yet molded them all together in order to answer the question of “How has the physical footprint of Elora changed over the year, and why?”. I hope that throughout my comparison of the different stages of the downtown area I will be able to see a pattern in the different type of shops that were in demand and the importance of certain buildings, such as the library or redevelopment of Town Hall.
The Wellington County Museum has been the best reference for archives on Elora including a variety of historical maps and fire insurance plans. A large portion of my project will include comparing and contrasting historical and current layouts and maps of the town. Although my research is still far from over, I have been able to track down a few town maps that I believe will be extremely beneficial for this section. The first was a hand drawn map depicted in a pamphlet based on what the town would have looked like in 1845. The streets are all labeled and important buildings and shops are numbered and have a description given, however several buildings and houses are not represented which may pose a problem if used for comparison with a present day layout. The second map was taken from The Historical Atlas of Wellington County published in 1906. The layout of this map would be particularly useful when comparing roads and landscape such as the river but unfortunately houses and buildings are only indicated in terms of location with no description given on what they actually were. Lastly, I came across a scanned copy of a map from the Museum. In order to use this map for my project I would need to speak with the archives center first and make sure a copyright issue wouldn’t come forward. This map is useful for both road locations and description of towns and houses. Unfortunately there is no date indicated but my Grandfather seems to think it would have been from the 1950’s, as my Grandma’s beauty shop is labeled with her married name Bergin but she closed down shortly after they were wed in 1949.
Just by glancing over these three maps alone, it is obvious that the town undertook significant alterations throughout the years. It is interesting to see the change in consumer demand with pottery and silver shops in the 1845 map to department stores and beauty parlors in the presumed 1950’s map.
Other data I hope to find that I believe will benefit my project is fire insurance maps, which unfortunately are not located at The University of Guelph Library. These plans are very detailed and will definitely be the most useful in a situation of comparing and contrasting.
Now that I have some of my data compiled and know the question that I hope to answer I can move forward and assemble this information in a digital way. My first train of thought for this was how I was going to present my information. I finally decided that creating a simple website would be the best way to keep all of my thoughts and findings organized and efficient. I have never created a website before and struggled with what database to use but finally landed on Wix. Right now I only have four pages on my website which are: Home, History, Maps and Photography. So far I feel this is the best way to separate my collective thoughts but it is still a work in progress and later I may feel that these need to be changed.
Under History I was going to present a paragraph or two on the background behind Elora which I would reference from the short book History of Elora written by Roberta Allan which I have found very useful so far. I was hoping to tie in a theme of oral history under this page which I thought could be a video or audio clip of an interview or two that I have conducted with locals from Elora on the town development.
The Maps page will house the focal point and main feature of the project. After working with georeferencing and mapping with Jennifer Marvin I decided that this would be interesting way to discover my hometown, unfortunately I have no experience in this area. To gain a better understanding I met with the Data Resource Center and discussed my project with one of the women working there. She went through all of the steps I would need to take in order to successfully complete a mapping project. My goal for this is to track down two or three historical maps or fire insurance plans of Elora that depict the downtown area well. Next I will select and save a current aerial view map from online and use the application ArcMap to compare and contrast the old maps to the new ones, pinpointing locations that have stayed the same and some that have changed.
The photography page will also be the same in the sense that I will use it to model historical photographs of downtown Elora to recent pictures that I have taken myself. This could be done by linking the photographs to the area on a map which they are found with a brief description, similar to the website Historypin or by creating a slideshow with an oral history depiction of both pictures.
New Skills Outcome So Far
Although my project is just at the beginning stages I do feel I have already gained a variety of different skills that I didn’t have before. Working with web pages and creating a website was new to me and so far I am having fun with it. I do plan on keeping my website simple as it is just mainly for the purpose of keeping my thoughts and ideas organized but selecting different pages and layouts has been fun. The mapping portion is the main section of my project and so far I am still pretty clueless when it comes to working with all of the applications needed but I am looking forward to conducting my own project and finding the results. I know that it is still going to take quite a bit of guidance from the DRC before this section of my project is completed but it is a new skill that I am looking forward to possessing. The outcome of my project so far is still at the starting lines as I have stated and I’m sure the finished project will have a few, if not many, alterations than my initial plan but I am eager to see what I come up with.