Toronto’s archived past goes mobile

In Business & Technology1 Comment

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By Luc Rinaldi

Ever wanted to revisit the days when the Mattamy Athletic Centre was called Maple Leaf Gardens or when the corner of Yonge and Gould Streets housed Sam The Record Man instead of a seemingly permanent construction site?

There’s an app for that.

Thanks to a new smartphone app called Toronto in Time, the city’s history – and a bit of Ryerson’s – is now available at your fingertips. Launched last week, the free Apple iOS and Android app is a legacy project of Toronto’s War of 1812 bicentennial commemoration, and tells the city’s story through a collection of historical anecdotes, places and photos.

Users can navigate through the app’s 150 stories, organized by date, theme and neighbourhood, on an interactive map or by following themed trails.

“It gives people a better sense of Toronto’s heritage, what makes Toronto tick,” said Sandra Shaul,  project manager of the bicentennial commemoration. “It’s just a remarkable story.”

And, according to Shaul, there’s plenty of room for growth. While there are no formal plans to add any Ryerson-related stories, there is no shortage of history to explore at the school.

“There’s a lot of Ryerson’s campus that no longer exists,” said Curtis Sassur, a Ryerson archivist. “I’d like to see the history of all the buildings that are gone now.” The archway entrance to the RAC, for one, is what remains of the Toronto Normal School, Ontario’s first teacher training facility.

Despite the app’s appeal – a friendly interface and accessible content – Sassur raised concerns over the quality of its stories, pointing out that they all come from a single set of closed sources, without linking to all referenced resources.

“(The app) is a great resource,” Sassur added, “but it’s not a university academic level resource.”

He said, however, that he’s hoping the app will draw more people into actual archives to conduct more in-depth research.

“Students love working with the actual source material,” he said. “In this age of a glut of digital stuff, it’s an interesting change of pace for students to actually work with book and paper items,” said Sassur.

“The romance of that is never going to go away.”


  1. Why would an app use stories that are ” university academic level resource”? It’s a freaking APP on a mobile phone. If someone needs ” university academic level resource,” they would go to the library. This is like criticizing a travel guide for not being academic enough. People need to get with the times and understand that the medium dictates the message. Apps are good for short pieces of information – not a freaking encyclopedia.

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