Local history is only a phone call away.April 12, 2019
On April 27th, a new portal for recognizing and celebrating local history will officially launch.
Hear Here London is a collaborative project between Michelle Hamilton, Associate Professor, Department of History, and Ariel Beaujot, Visiting Assistant Professor, from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. They are celebrating the official launch, as they complete the second phase of the project, focusing on the SoHo neighbourhood.
With the help of students in the Master’s of Public History, the project has collected stories about local history, people and places. Approximately 40 distinctive orange ‘Hear Here’ Signs are placed in locations through downtown London, and people can call a phone number to hear a story related to that location.
The project received SSHRC funding, and the City of London is an official partner, providing the location signs.
Speaking to CBC London, Hamilton said “These stories are not recorded in any local history book. These are the voices of everyday people who live in London.”
In 2015, Beaujot oversaw the development and launch of Hear Here in La Crosse, Wisconsin. She came to Western on a sabbatical, and began working with Hamilton to launch the program here. Students gathered stories from letters and audio recordings.
The recordings tell stories of local institutions and businesses, many from the people who worked there, providing a deeper understanding of London’s history. People can also submit their own stories, which may be included in the tours.
Many of the stories, while having a local connection, also connect to larger historic events, including slavery in the United States and the underground railway, and the German occupation of Poland during the Second World War.
In an earlier phase of the London project, Public History postdoctoral scholar Mark Tovey prepared an oral history of the St. George-Grosvenor-Piccadilly neighbourhood. These stories are accessible through 10 signs in the neighbourhood.
In the second phase of the project, the team focused on the SoHo neighbourhood of London. There are about 40 signs connected to the project, telling about 70 different stories. The SoHo area was selected as it was home to many different aspects of London’s history, including being home to many different immigrant populations and much of London’s early manufacturing. Due to recent real estate development, many buildings in the area are being re-purposed or removed. Hear Here will help preserve these stories.
On Saturday, April 27th, the project will host an official Launch Party. The event will take place in the Atrium of Goodwill Industries, at 255 Horton Street East. It will include group tours of the Hear Here locations.