It’s Been a While
As we work to change the narrative on who gets to be heard, experience the 10 Toronto History Museums in a way like never before.
Youth and children from diverse backgrounds deep dive into colonial history to tell their version of the sites’ history. With their keen eyes and fresh lens, they re-imagine the stories from Toronto’s past and share their thoughts and observations.
Storytelling is an integral part of our collective and individual understanding of the world, starting from early childhood. Young people are usually told stories, but with this oral history project they are the storytellers.
As various Toronto History Museums begin to reopen, you will be able to engage with these audio tours as part of your guided tour experience. To learn more about the experiences of these young people at the museums watch the Awakenings Reflections: Behind the Scene Discussions films. For hours of operation, please visit the specific museum webpage.
Mammalian Diving Reflex creates sound installations by looking for contradictions to whip into aesthetically scintillating experiences. The company creates site and social-specific performance events, theatre productions, participatory gallery installations, videos, art objects and theoretical texts to foster dialogue and dismantle barriers between individuals of all backgrounds by bringing people together in new and unusual ways.
Marie-France Laval is passionate about human beings and different cultures. Although her career began in technology and international sales, her interest turned to directing. She graduated from Montreal’s Institut national de l’image et du son in documentary production, with a mission to create stories with human content to make a difference in society. Working internationally allows her to meet people from different cultures and use her experience as a globetrotter.
Emily and Julia visit Colborne Lodge, home to Jemima Frances Meikle and John George Howard. Located in High Park and surrounded by acres of greenery, they speak about preserving the natural landscape and honouring the Indigenous ways of knowing. They discuss the erasure of Jemima’s story and the stigma on women’s mental health.
The interior of Colborne Lodge is currently closed due to construction work.
Aaron and Noah tour Fort York National Historic Site, which acted as a military fort and barrack in defence of the Toronto Harbour. The two highlight the role the Indigenous Anishnabeg Warriors had in the War of 1812 and review the idea behind the ‘Coloured Corps,’ a military unit composed of free and enslaved Black men. They dive into ways to combat discrimination and what they would change.
Alik and Jermaine visit the home of David Gibson, who worked as a land surveyor. The brothers explore the ethics of his job and the effects it had on the Indigenous community. They debate the nature of the Toronto Purchase, questioning the fairness of the deal, while getting into a squabble about a previous deal they made with each other.
Rya and Mya visit where Toronto’s first City Council chamber once was, as well as St. Lawrence Hall where the 1851 Anti-Slavery Conference was held. The two talk about how inspiring Mary Ann Shadd is, as she was a strong female voice for the abolitionist movement. The two go into what they would change if they were elected and touch on the significance of William Peyton Hubbard, who became the city’s first Black elected politician.
Oscar and Reefat debate what kind of person deserves to have a street named after them and speculate if the street named after Samuel Peters Jarvis should be changed, given his history. They go back and forth on what true freedom means and dive into Mary Ann Shadd’s legacy as a role model and the respect William Lyon Mackenzie had for her.
The interior of Mackenzie House is currently closed following flooding.
Katya and Amyra visit Montgomery’s Inn which at its peak had individuals from all walks of life coming to eat and sleep, however not all stories were told. They discuss Joshua Glover’s life, who fled slavery from America and the significance of his role at the Inn. The two youth touch upon Willie Chung, who was of Chinese heritage and born at the Inn, along with the Chinese Head Tax that was once imposed to restrict immigration.
Lily and Tristian visit Scarborough Museum and talk about how Indigenous people may have felt not being represented and how life would look if immigration was even more restricted. They look at what makes an apology genuine and the importance of talking about history so nothing is forgotten.
Kayden and Zoe drop into Spadina Museum which was home to the Austin family. They emphasize the importance of individuals being recognized rightfully, especially for the women of that time. Kayden and Zoe imagine what life was like for those working for the Austin family like Mrs. Pipkin, the laundress who escaped slavery in the 1850s.
Ruby and Tara explore Todmorden Mills and give their thoughts on its many roles over the years from being used as a dumping ground for waste, to grounds of industrial buildings, to a space for the homeless to reside. They discuss these changes and its environmental impact, as well as the importance of recognizing those who were here first and child labour at the time.
The interiors of Helliwell House and the Cottage at Todmorden Mills are currently closed due to site maintenance.
Ahnaf and Amare visit Zion Schoolhouse, a school built in 1869 which provided free public education for children in the small farming community of L’Amoreaux. They talk about the difference between the education system from back then to now, and what they would like to change today. Ahnaf and Amare also share their thoughts on Residential and Segregated schools and the hypocrisy of those behind these institutions.
The interior of Zion Schoolhouse is currently closed.
Content posted on “It’s Been a While” as part of the Awakenings program operates under the principles of anti-oppression, anti-colonialism, sustainability, advocacy and storytelling. The content, views and opinions expressed are those of the individual youth/kids/story teller/presenter/producer and does not necessarily represent the City of Toronto’s views or opinions or an endorsement of such views or opinions by the City of Toronto. The City of Toronto is not responsible for any legal claims, costs, damages, liabilities, or obligations arising from the use or misuse of any content presented or filmed as part of the Awakenings program. The City of Toronto does not guarantee or warrant the quality, accuracy or completeness of the information presented or filmed as part of the Awakenings program.