Social histories get a voice

CFRC and Archives partner to revitalize Stones Project

Speaking Stones launched on Thursday.
Speaking Stones launched on Thursday.
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For the past eight months, CFRC and Queen’s Archives have been collaborating on a revitalization of the Archives’ “Speaking Stones” website guide to the social history of Kingston.

Kristiana Clemens, operating officer at CFRC, said their initial plan was to create audio walking tours of certain locations around Kingston. When she realized that the Archives had already compiled information about walking tours in Kingston for their “Stones” Project, the two organizations paired up, combining both ideas for a newly designed website.

CFRC held a launch and reception party in City Hall on Thursday night to introduce the website’s new features, which include audio walking tours, interactive mapping and enhanced French-language resources.

Clemens said CFRC’s interest in the project stems from the organization’s mandate and mission to “celebrate and empower the diversity of the Kingston and Queen’s communities”.

A large part of that empowerment, Clemens said, is “growing awareness and enriching the historical legacy we have all around us of the experience of diverse communities in Kingston”.

The new audio tours will be described by members of the communities that the historical Kingston sites hold significance for.

This feature “helped foster that engagement and awareness” the CFRC is looking for, Clemens said.

The new website is meant to be more accessible to mobile devices and more user-friendly, something David Parker said he’s been working to ensure.

Parker, CompSci ’14, redesigned the website’s navigation and maps to be able to display content in a more friendly way for mobile devices without making a full-fledged app. The website features a map of Kingston with markers to point out historical sites that when clicked display the option to look at the historical information about the site and the audio guided tour.

Parker got involved by volunteering at CFRC, helping with IT, and says the project has been “a learning experience” for him.

The Stones Project was initiated in 2005 when the Archives rented trollies and offered guided tours of Kingston with a focus on social history for their annual archive lecture.

After the tours, Heather Home, public services archivist at the Archives, said she remembered wondering “how is it that we can make this accessible, because it was really popular with a lot of people in the community”.

Four years later, they created the Stones Project in partnership with the Kingston Frontenac Public Library and local web designers, with the help of a Canadian Culture Online Strategy grant.

Home said they’re constantly trying to improve the project.

“We’re just trying to build and build on what was a good thing to begin with and we’re just trying to make it better with each incarnation.”

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