February 2nd, 2022
Discovering the Black Historical Experience in Southwestern Ontario: A Virtual Tour of Southwestern Ontario’s Black History Launched for Black History Month
Museums and heritage sites involved in the interpretation of the region’s Black historical experience have launched a new online Black history tour. Coordinators from four areas have selected over 40 images that represent some of the key persons, events and structures in their communities, all delivered right to people’s mobile devices.
Four online tours are planned, covering areas in Essex-Windsor, Chatham-Kent, the London Region and Oxford County. Each tour begins with the Underground Railway and the arrival of thousands of formerly enslaved persons fleeing the United States before the Civil War, followed by more recent historical events and people such as Emancipation Day celebrations and the Chatham All-Stars Baseball Team.
The group behind the initiative includes museum curators, historic site administrators, and community historians, relying on the assistance of libraries and archives throughout the region. The group set out two years ago to revise a driving tour guide of the region’s Black history sites originally produced for an exhibit at Museum London. The goal was to provide a guide for educators and the general public searching for resources to assist with learning about the Black historical experience. It would also inform each site about others who were involved in this work.
Then COVID hit and for the next two years many of the sites in the guide experienced repeated lock downs. But along with it came a renewed interest in Black history and so the search began for a way to put the guide online. An app developer – onthisspot.ca – was found with a record of creating historical tours for communities large and small. In some cases, the company had worked with historical societies and museums and therefore knew what constraints the group was working under, including financial.
The resulting tours will be available on-demand and at no charge, once the free app is downloaded. Future components of the app will include virtual tours of the interior of the museums and historic sites and the inclusion of recorded narration of stories and music.
The tours can be accessed anywhere, however the organizers hope that users will actually visit the region in person. The Oxford County component of the tour can be viewed through your browser, here: https://onthisspot.ca/cities/oxfordcounty. The tours are ideal as cycling adventures and of course visitors are welcome at any of the museums and historic sites, once it’s safe to do so.
The project was funded by a Canada Healthy Communities Initiative grant received by Museum London and through contributions from the participating museums and sites.
Matthew Lloyd (he/him)
Curatorial Administrator | Norwich & District Museum
80 Stover St. North, Norwich ON N0J1P0