I am delighted to announce that I am going to be contributing historical articles on a regular basis to Torontoist, one of Toronto’s leading online media outlets.
If you are from Toronto and aren’t familiar with Torontoist, then you should know that it is one of several online, Toronto-themed websites that have emerged in the last decade. It is difficult to pigeonhole these websites, as evidenced by Torontoist‘s own efforts to describe itself.
And, if you are reading this, are interested in Toronto history, and aren’t familiar with Torontoist, then I very much recommend having a look at their historical content (and the rest of the site, of course). Torontoist covers a lot of issues related to Toronto and, like many of the newer Toronto media outlets, frequently runs historical interest pieces. I’ve found that many older members of the city’s heritage community look at me blankly when I mention Torontoist, blogTO, or the Toronto Standard to them, and this is a shame because all of these sites are making great efforts to share Toronto’s history to their sizeable readership.
Much of Torontoist‘s history-based content comes in the form of their Historicist column, which appears every Saturday at noon. I am now the third regular member of this column’s team, and have started by writing a piece on how a professional matchmaker named Nelle Brooke Stull ran afoul of the Toronto law in 1936. (I did, in fact, contribute twice to this column in 2011 as a guest contributor, with pieces on ice-cutting on Grenadier Pond and the unveiling of the new SickKids building in 1951.)
There are several reasons why I am excited about joining Torontoist, including the reputation that Historicist has developed for thorough, well-researched articles. But one of the main things that excites me is getting to write for a broad audience of Torontonians. In the past, most of the historical pieces I have written have been aimed at history or heritage-themed publications, where the readers self-identify as history fans and/or heritage professionals. Torontoist is read by people who are simply interested in Toronto.
As such, I feel like I am writing about Toronto history for people who don’t necessarily go out of their way to read about such things. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that people need to be “tricked” into reading about history, but I think it’s important to recognize that a lot of people will like history when it’s brought right to them, but for whatever reason aren’t going to seek it out. I think it’s important to integrate historical content into other content about news, culture, or politics. It is the same reason why we put plaques and sculptures in public places, instead of tucking them behind closed doors. This is presumably true for many cities, but I feel it’s especially important in Toronto where, for years, there has been a popular attitude that our city doesn’t have any heritage worth preserving, and no history interesting or old enough to be worth telling.
While I believe that many young Toronto history fans are missing out by not supporting their local historical societies and learning about the city’s vast heritage community, I also believe the veterans are missing out by not knowing about the great work being done and published online.
And I am especially proud that my work will be on Historicist alongside that of Kevin Plummer and Jamie Bradburn, whose history pieces I have been reading and enjoying for the last few years. These two historians have helped give Torontoist the solid reputation that it enjoys today, and deserve to be recognized for their efforts and achievements.