YORK UNKNOWN: How We Accomplished This Project
York Unknown was created for the purpose of uncovering the untold stories about what is now York University. There were a lot of questions about this land that we found interesting and that we aimed to answer.
We started our research by looking online for resources. We came across a wide-range of government heritage designations, genealogy sites, and sites containing historical data such as death dates of settlers. This primary research really helped us to paint a mental picture about what the land looked like before York purchased it. As we wanted to get an accurate understanding about who actually lived in each of the houses, we needed to first understand the family histories of the settlers and family timelines.
Once we got a firmer grasp on what we were dealing with, we began to check out the Scott Library, and found quite a large variety of books written about the land. At this point in time, we also contacted Black Creek Pioneer Village. As it is also on the Stong land that we were exploring, we felt that they would be a good help to us. The head of Historic Programming contacted us back, and sent a helpful source about Elizabeth and Daniel Stong as well as some (creepy) photographs. She also put us into contact with the site’s curator and collection manager who suggested some additional books such as Patricia Hart’s, Pioneering in North York: A History of the Borough.
Additionally, we contacted the Clara Thomas Archives, who provided a myriad of sources that we found very helpful. After this we visited the archives twice in order to look at historical documents. It is here that we found the most useful information about the Hart and Hoover houses, as well as Jacob Stong’s cause and date of death.
We felt the best way to split up the writing of the posts was to each take the responsibility of a historic building/stop on the tour. Each group member wrote their own very detailed blog post.
Hart House - Aimee
Stong House - Amanda
Stong Barn - Valentina
Hoover House - Annabella
A carefully thought-out element of creepiness was added to each blog post for dramatic effect and to fit with the theme of our tour.
For our haunted walking tour, we decided to use an app called, Actionbound, which allows users of the website to walk around campus and explore the haunted buildings at York University. The app features an interactive map, audio and visual aids (such as podcasts, creepy videos, and photographs), and interesting facts about the site. The app also contains an introduction and conclusion which includes rules of the tour and suggestions. We made sure that our project was functioning properly by trying it out ourselves! We walked and did the entire tour to see the length, exact locations and took many photographs (even in the rain which ended up giving our photos that extra creepy stormy effect).
Along with the blog posts, we each recorded short podcasts for all of the houses. We felt it was the best way to deliver information on our walking tour while also giving us another opportunity to add another touch of creepiness with eerie music added into the background. When exploring the app, one will notice that each section of the tour is greeted with photographs and the individualized podcast. By listening to a short podcast, and then being directed to click a link that leads you to our website, we felt that it would keep the attention of the viewer. Instead of standing in front of a building and staring at your smart device reading, we decided that the tour would be best received if the viewer could study the structure in front of them, while listening to the information. After this, they are welcome to read the very detailed blog posts.
We made a completely new website that better suited our project through Wix. The site includes a menu, our blog section, a contact us section, and information about how to access the tour. The purpose of our website is to link our blog posts and allow for further research and further details about the specific locations such as historical photographs from various sources to be available to interested tour participants. The website is where people will find information about how to download the Actionbound app on both iOS and Google Play, and find our specific tour. We can also be contacted through the app. There are many times throughout the experience that we tell our viewers to reach out to us in order to gain additional information. Something that we wanted to do from the start was to have audience engagement. We felt that this aspect of accessibility and interactivity in our project is important to fostering a sense of a community experience. Since our primary audience is students of York University, we felt that getting the students’ input and creepy stories would be a great asset!
Our project developed with the help of each team member, was made possible through communication via Whatsapp and text messaging on a weekly basis. We’ve had countless group meetings to discuss the project and we are very excited about sharing this project with everyone.
We used the social media platform, Instagram, to get attention from the community and have been posting countdown pictures to get our followers excited and on board with our project. We have already gained the attention of some awesome accounts!
We hope that our project can be explored and viewed by many to gain a better understanding of the land we now call: York University.