Date: April 27, 2021
Partner: Ontario Jewish Archives, Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre
Project Members: Hanna Schacter
Scrolling Spadina is a digital tour of Kensington Market creating an online, immersive, and exciting opportunity for visitors to learn the Jewish history of the market and the Spadina area through guided video tours. In 1974, the Ontario Jewish Archives began leading tours of Kensington Market and the surrounding area. The previous iterations of the OJA’s Jewish heritage walking tours were promoted as A Sense of Spadina and more recently rebranded as Stories of Spadina. Led by OJA’s team of experienced and knowledgeable guides, the tour is popular amongst tourists, school groups, Jewish organizations, social clubs, and historic walking tour fans. In 2020, due to COVID-19, these in person tours were suspended. However, the continued interest of the tour, and the growing demand for digital experiences in the heritage field, was the inspiration for the OJA’s effort to create a digital version of this popular tour. It is also an opportune time to bring the tour to people who otherwise would not be able to attend in person.
The project began in May 2020 and will be completed by April 2021. There are a total of eight stops on the digital tour that feature videos and content narrated by each of the five guides who typically lead the OJA’s heritage walking tour. Each guide was involved in the consultation process and helped develop the scripts for each video. In October 2020, over the course of two days, we filmed on-location videos with our videographer, Pierre Kochel. By filming the guides on location, we were able to capture the distinctiveness of the market and provide contemporary visual context for each of the stories. Accompanying archival photographs and documents were sourced from the OJA’s collections and when added to the videos, provide historical context, and help illustrate the stories. The result is an immersive online experience that explores themes of immigration, daily life, community development, activism and more.
We have also designed this tour as a tool that teachers can use to take “virtual field trips”, as one of the primary groups that attend the in-person tours are school classes. In a section of the tour website, teachers will find guides and lesson plans for grades six to twelve that detail how they can use the tour content in class. Through primary source-based activities, and explorations of immigration, community development and advocacy, teachers and students will be able to connect the Jewish history of the market to various curriculum strands.
The tour truly portrays the community-oriented nature of the Jewish immigrants and the support they provided to each other when settling. We hope that anyone interested in Jewish history finds this virtual stroll through Spadina a useful resource. The tour illustrates the challenges, accomplishments, and overall tenacity of the Jewish community in the early twentieth century. Explore Scrolling Spadina on your desktop or mobile device and immerse yourself in the unique Jewish history of Kensington Market.