Reposted with permission from Bloor West Villager Oct 5, 2011, By Erin Hatfield.
When the Parkdale Residents Association (PRA) organized and hosted a guided tour through one of Toronto’s most historic neighbourhoods in 2010, they were overwhelmed with the turnout. The walk, which was presented during the annual Jane’s Walk, drew more than 100 people. Jane’s Walks, which take place the first weekend in May, is named after the late urban planner Jane Jacobs’ with the goal of getting people exploring their neighbourhoods and meeting their neighbours.
It was after that walk PRA members said they realized there might be more of an interest in local history than they realized. Recently the PRA hosted a meeting, which focused on possibly establishing a Village of Parkdale Historical Society.
Historical societies collect information about an area’s past, gather and preserve historical artifacts, encourage the preservation and restoration of unique buildings and foster an interest in history in the community. The PRA has decided to build at least the framework for a historical society in the area, and the meeting was an opportunity for the association and residents to learn just how to do that.
Robert Leverty, the executive director of The Ontario Historical Society, explained the organization has the power to incorporate historical societies and in recent years there has been a flood of societies being set up across Ontario.
“There are many reasons people are setting up historical societies,” Leverty said. “But the message is… if you don’t organize and protect your history then no one is going to do it.”
In order to incorporate, Leverty explained the group would need to create a constitution and operate as a democratic body. “Whatever you decide to do in the coming year and months, we are more than willing to work with you because this is how history is saved,” Leverty said.
Also on hand were Paul Litt and Gerald Whyte, president and vice-president, respectively, of the Toronto Historical Association. That association, which was started in the 1990s, pulls together area societies and shares best practices. Litt said he hoped that was something in which Parkdale could participate in the future. “You do have a really rich history and hopefully you can form,” Litt said.
Joan Miles, founding member of the West Toronto Junction Historical Society, explained when that society was in its early stages in the 1980s, the relationship it had with the area planner and local librarian proved quite valuable. She encouraged Parkdale residents to foster relationships with the local city planner and library staff.
Norm McLeod, president of the Swansea Historical Society, explained to the group that if they do form a society, they will find there is a great deal of crossover and shared history with other societies. “In the heritage community, there is no real separation,” he said. “Everyone works together.”
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