Edmonton Maps Heritage has always been envisioned as a collective, active and ongoing “mapping” of the city’s heritage. Originally launched in 2011, the site now stores information on almost 400 historically significant local landmarks.
Collection such a breadth of information has provided answers not only about the locations themselves, but also about the people who frequent them—their importance and vitality to the Edmonton story.
The first phase of the project was development in a partnership between the Edmonton Heritage Council, the Edmonton Historical Board and the City of Edmonton Archives. This phase aimed to connect people with useful and engaging information on some of Edmonton’s important and interesting heritage buildings and sites, as well as useful links to local museums, archives and heritage organizations.
This phase produced several hundred locations, most of which are already officially marked as historically significant. We soon noticed gaps in the database—more recent cultural heritage sites and smaller or volunteer-run heritage organizations were noticeably absent, despite their strong presence in neighbourhoods city-wide.
Rather than do the research ourselves, we took this an opportunity to involve the cultural groups in the collection and promotion of their heritage. In the last two years, we have added almost 100 cultural heritage locations, from synagogues and gurdwaras to the hotspots of ethnic cuisine in Edmonton, and the entries continue to come in from diverse communities such as the South Asian, Filipino, Jewish, and more. Locals are contracted to research their cultural communities, document important landmarks, and interview those willing to share their stories.
The next step in Edmonton Maps Heritage is thinking of more interactive ways for the public to see and share this content. In early 2014, we began early pilot work on audio soundwalks, looking at specific locations and the possibilities of not only broadcasting their importance, but also capturing their ambiences in both the present and the past, through creative use of archival audio.
Through Edmonton Maps Heritage, we’ve learned that Edmonton’s layered narratives are virtually endless, and the most interesting plot points have yet to be discovered, whether through oral histories passed down through generations or by finding a reel buried deep in an archive.
With each gap in Edmonton’s story filled, another seems to reveal itself. We hope Edmontonians will continue being encouraged to fill them.