The Roundtable is the result of a two-year project through Ryerson University in collaboration with the Archives of Ontario. In a group of talented individuals, we were tasked to solve the Archives of Ontario's problem of attracting a younger demographic to the institution in the beginning of 2018. This led us to creating an app that facilitated a QR-Code tour of the financial district of Toronto, the prototype focusing on the story of the Great Fire of 1904. We successfully pitched the final product to the Archives of Ontario being embraced by the facility and being featured at the Archives of Ontario facility during Doors Opened 2018.
When provided the opportunity to continue this project within Ryerson University with the Archives of Ontario in the beginning of 2019, my group member Julie Mai and I happily accepted. When evaluating the progress of our app since the summer of 2018, we found that there was little data and that the product did not succeed in drawing in a younger demographic to the Archives of Ontario. This led us to a long research period before deciding to pivot our solution all together and focus on the educational outreach program at the Archives of Ontario. We believed the best idea would to choose an existing demographic within the Archives of Ontario that we could expand upon. When looking into the program we found out that not only do teachers want more support and resources, specifically for the topic of Indigenous communities and history, for teaching but also that due to budget cuts, the Archives of Ontario had to stop their very popular travelling workshops to schools. This helped us clearly define the problem of accessibility that when surveyed showed existed for students as well in regards to the use and recognition of the Archives of Ontario and ultimately led us to the creation of The Roundtable.
The Roundtable is a platform and annual online zine that includes items from the Archives of Ontario, the Library and Archives of Canada, and from communal archive projects. The first addition, entitled Flashforward, features interviews of archivists, art directed as well as resources for educators to use within the classroom. The title "Flashforward" was chosen as this issue focuses on Indigenous communities, as educators requested for more support and materials for this topic since being included in the Ontario curriculum. To "Flashforward" is to take past narratives forward in time to recognize a sustained conversation on identity and Ontario's history in the classroom. This is a prototyped solution that could easily be expanded to events, installations, and other concepts to further involve the public and different communities in the use of archival material. Projects such as The Roundtable are to help destigmatize archives and inform and encourage the public to use open data for projects within all different sectors.
Check out the project at www.roundtable.space
Testimonials and Reactions
Since the conclusion of the Ryerson University course, both the QR Code Guided Tour and The Roundtable were presented at the annual Association of Canadian Archivists Conference in June or 2019 by Chris Sanagan and Peter Hinton of Archives of Ontario. Within the presentation our projects were highlighted for the ways in which information from open-data institutions can be used in new, exciting and creative ways to draw in different demographics to archival materials and institutions.