Date: April 20, 2020 – April 20, 2021
Partner: Toronto Railway Museum
Project Members: Elizabeth Cytko, Erika Ilse, Karen Macke
Uncovering Union is an online exhibition that explores the social history of Toronto’s Union Station. Currently, the majority of people living in, and visiting Toronto, are unaware of the long and complex history of this major landmark. With millions of people travelling through Union Station each year, this online exhibition aims to create a place where stories and visuals about its history are readily available to the public. From seeing soldiers off to war, to parades and larger-than-life paintings, this website features nine stories that tell the intricate and diverse history of not only Union Station, but also the people who have and continue to use it.
Throughout this project, each team member contributed in a wide variety of areas. Each member held specific roles, while also working on tasks together. Main roles included: Elizabeth as our timeline creator, Erika as our graphic designer for promotional materials, and Karen as the editor. Each of these main duties co-existed with all other necessary functions. All group members contributed by conducting primary research and writing stories about the events at Union Station. Each team member also dealt with the throes of copyright with different repositories. All members also contributed to the graphic design elements of the entire website experience. Overall, we created an interactive storytelling platform that will educate the public about the social history surrounding our beloved Union Station. This experience will allow the audience to soar through time while experiencing different storied acts of Toronto’s history.
We divided our work into three main phases – Initiating, Planning, and Execution. The Initiating phase focused upon the group discovering what potential human stories to use. This included winnowing down the selection to nine stories, with each member taking a unique spin on what the human history of Union Station meant. Karen’s ideas focused on events where Union Station was a part of the story, but not the focal point. Erika’s stories focused upon events which took place within the station, highlighting the human connections within. Elizabeth focused on events where people came together to protect or revitalize the building itself – where Union acted as the tinder that united the community. These unique spins also meant adjusting writing styles to come together to strike the right tone of storytelling on the website.
The majority of our work has been in the Execution phase, which included tasks in research, writing, seeking copyright, and website design. Research included getting elbow deep in archival boxes, taking out many books, and sharing exciting finds with one another. Often while researching one story, information that complimented another member’s story cropped up. Finding an aesthetic for the website took time, as this involved looking at colour swatches from the Pantone website, testing them out on the Wix platform, and sometimes changing the decisions at the next meeting. After putting it together, we user-tested the website and made the recommended adjustments.
We would like to thank the Toronto Railway Museum for making this project possible, and extend our especial thanks to Kelly Burwash and Derek Boles for their constant insight and support. We would also like to thank our Museum Studies colleagues for their feedback throughout the year, as well as our professor Dr. Agnieska Chalas and TA’s Camille-Mary Sharp and Haley Bryant for their support during the exhibit creation process. Finally, we would like to acknowledge the support of those who provided the visuals and research insights we utilized during this project: the City of Toronto Archives, Archives of Ontario, National Film Board of Canada, the Santa Claus Parade, Selwyn Jacob, Melynda Jarratt, and the Toronto Star.