You can take a trip across Ontario to explore its lush natural, cultural and historical background without even leaving the comfort of your own home.
Digital Doors Open Ontario offers virtual experiences on its website, featuring many of the province's renowned and beloved sites, as well as the stories behind their doors. The online experiences include photo and virtual tours, videos, searchable collections, games and activities.
David Leonard, community programs officer with Ontario Heritage Trust, told The Weather Network recently that the yearly initiative is "all about creating opportunities for people of Ontario to explore, discover and appreciate Ontario’s heritage."
“We work with many communities and partners to feature experiences of Ontario’s defining cultural and natural heritage spaces. We create opportunities to appreciate those for free," said Leonard. "In a pre-COVID-19 environment, that was through in-person events, which would take place from April through October.”
Great Manitou Island, Ont. (Ontario Heritage Trust)
VIRTUAL DOORS TO ONTARIO'S HERITAGE SINCE 2020
Since 2020, it’s been predominantly digital as a result of the restrictions imposed during the pandemic. Before COVID-19 hit, the program was a popular draw in-person to get people to visit heritage sites around Ontario.
People can visit the website and take virtual tours, view videos and searchable collections, and enjoy numerous activities. Despite the program being a digital-only access, Leonard says it still preserves its "core value."
"Doors Open Ontario is all about increasing access to Ontario’s heritage and encouraging the people of Ontario to appreciate it. Whether we do that through in-person events or through video, activity or tour, we’re still furthering that end," said Leonard.
Before the pandemic hit, Ontario Heritage Trust worked with 35-40 community partners every year to open more than 900 cultural and natural heritage sites to the public for free, he said, noting they would be visited by about 500,000 people annually.
Devil's Monument, Bruce Peninsula, Ont. (Ontario Heritage Trust)
"The digital side has been, from my perspective, a really inspiring undertaking," said Leonard.
ORGANIZATION SAFEGUARDS ONTARIO'S LEGACY
Ontario Heritage Trust protects, conserves and values the province’s legacy. Its work isn't exclusive to historical buildings, possibly coming as a surprise to some people, Leonard said, noting many of its properties are natural landscapes.
"What heritage is really about what we think is the connection of people, story, place and history. What we heard more than any other theme from people when we we're out travelling [across] the province was that nature defines their sense of place, their sense of identity and their sense of hope," said Leonard.
Of the properties that the organization owns "directly," most of them are natural heritage, Leonard said. Most of Ontario’s historic buildings are within the range of 150 years old, Leonard noted.
"These are really important, really special the way people relate to history in a hands-on way. Nature and Ontario’s natural spaces really put that age in perspective," said Leonard.
Scotsdale Farm, Halton Hills, Ont. (Ontario Heritage Trust)
Also part of the organization's mandate is a focus on the Indigenous and how critical their history is to the province.
"They’re incredibly valuable for Indigenous people living in Ontario. These kinds of incredibly old, incredibly invaluable, inspiring places are so important to the way Ontarians relate to their identities and to their communities," said Leonard.
HERITAGE MATTERS LIVE
To complement Digital Doors Open Ontario, the heritage group is presenting a free online presentation beginning on Nov. 9. It will be viewable until Dec. 9.
Entitled Heritage Matters Live with Edward Burtynsky, the 70-minute talk will centre on the photographer and filmmaker discussing and demonstrating his large-scale pictures, showing that "we’ve reached an unprecedented moment in history," according to the description on the event website.
Thumbnail courtesy of Ontario Heritage Trust.
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