In this Canada150 project, Windsor-Essex's rich and complex history will be explored through images – photographic and geophysical – collected with and through our communities, and then curated and displayed on UWindsor’s Digital History Project website.
Who are we and what is this?
We're a group of historians, librarians, archeologists and geoscientists interested in Windsor-Essex history that got together to propose a project that investigates or 'digs' into our local history and celebrates Canada's 150th birthday at the same time!
What is the project? What are its goals?
Windsor-Essex is one of the most historically significant areas of Canada - the longest continuously inhabited area west of Quebec. However, most people are unaware of its rich and complex story. In this increasingly visual and connected world. Over the last year and a half, we have “dug”, both figuratively and literally, into the integral role that this area and the communities of Essex County have played in the past 150 years and beyond, resulting in an online museum exhibit of images representing our rich history.
To figuratively “dig”, UWindsor held a public “Scan-a-thon” in August of 2017 where community members brought in family and historical photographs and artifacts to be scanned and catalogued. Literally, we (UWindsor, OHT, City of Windsor, WIFN) held a “dig” in Assumption Park in a "citizen science" initiative that used geophysical mapping and historical research to discover the remnants of buried structures (possibly, First Nations sites, churches, buildings, cemeteries). We engaged a wide range of Windsor-Essex community members (residents, new immigrants, youth and indigenous peoples) through this project. Finally, you are seeing the grand finale: an online museum/display created as a legacy project celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday to inspire an increased understanding of our region, Canada as a country, and our buried history.
What is the significance of the project for Canada's 150th?
The year 2017 was Canada’s 150th birthday, Windsor’s 125th birthday, and the 250th anniversary of the oldest parish west of Montreal (Our Lady of the Assumption). It has been 300+ years since the European colonization of this area which is, without a doubt, one of the oldest sites of indigenous occupation in Canada. No other area has the same roots and ties to indigenous peoples and the same historical and religious significance. In what better year than 2017, Canada’s 150th birthday, could our local contributions to the formation of Canada be more deeply explored?
From before the initial European colonization of the area in 1701 through the War of 1812, through the Industrial Revolution and the development of the automobile industry to the present, this area and its communities (Sandwich, Walkerville, Windsor, Amherstburg) have been key to the story of Canada. In this multi-celebratory year, we sought to inspire our community to “dig” into the history of this area – both literally and figuratively. We will be celebrating the occasion of Canada’s 150th birthday and our local history by encouraging a wide range of community members to participate in the celebrations by “digging” into their own family records and by assisting with a virtual/geophysical “dig” in Assumption Park – a site of both prehistoric and historic significance. The ultimate goal of the project is a virtual museum/display chronicling this journey, together with images from both of these 'digs' that form a record of local history both since Confederation and predating it, which can then be used to imag(in)e 150+ years of local history.