ROUND HILL, NS - Local residents crowd around a large map of Round Hill.
Highway 201 cuts through Randal Frederick’s cartographical landscape with several dozen photographs of houses printed on each side of the east-west line that represents one of the oldest roads in the country.
It’s the map’s unveiling Feb. 28. You can look out the window of the community hall and see the road, the houses, the landscape of settlement that predates Confederation by much more than a century. There are Acadian ruins that go back well before English occupation.
But Frederick’s map is just a physical representation of an online project that is layers deep, pulling together geography, heritage, culture, and time in such a way that history comes to life and connects with the present in a continuum that goes straight into the future.
The map is a work in progress and the 50 or so locals are encouraged to mark on the map, make additions, notations. One man’s house is apparently missing.
But as the Round Hill phase of a much larger project continues, more layers will be added, and anyone can go online, click on the map, and read the history of a particular house, who built it, the type of architecture, who the original owner was. There can be as much information as members of the community can provide.
The map and its online equivalent are parts of Mapannapolis, the Age Advantage Association’s Annapolis Community Mapping Project started by local residents and students and staff at the Centre of Geographical Sciences (COGS) in Lawrencetown. COGS and Age Advantage Association unveiled the mapping project early in 2016 and have been adding layers of information ever since.
In 2017 the group was a finalist for the Governor General’s award for community planning.
A similar map for the Centrelea area has already been unveiled, and one for Granville Ferry will be launched at a public event on March 22 at 10 a.m. at the community hall there.
But there are many other layers accessible online, including Acadian settlements, Black Loyalists, and even the many, many wharfs in Annapolis Royal and Granville Ferry. Click on markers on the map and the story pops up.
There’s a layer for graveyards and cemeteries, one for the 85th Brigade, and Annapolis Royal and area with eight different layers you can look at individually.
COGS instructor and Age Advantage Association chair Ed Symons said rural communities have unique challenges and incredible histories.
“Knowing what we have and knowing our past is all part of that concept of resiliency – that we can move ahead with a strong understanding of who we are and what we are,” he said. “It’s very exciting, and this idea of place-based learning to me is really good too because I’d like, as we move forward, to integrate this more into local schools. I’d love to see this get into local schools more as part of a curriculum piece to help children in the area understand what the history is of the area.”
“The dedication of these volunteers and their vision, and their energy and enthusiasm was incredible,” said Symons in reference to the many community members and the Age Advantage Association members who gathered information and photographs. “One thing I didn’t know when I said ‘hey, let’s have a community mapping course’ – what I really didn’t understand – was the magic that takes place when you have intergenerational learning taking place in your classroom setting. It was phenomenal.”
Many of those community folk were seniors, like Anne Crossman of Centrelea who started out on her own before she figured there must be a better way. Phil Hyam and Cheryl Den Hartog became involved in the original iteration five years ago when the layered mapping was just an idea.
“They were just like students,” said Symons. “Up ‘til one in the morning scanning these documents, putting things on maps, coming with questions – but guiding the young people who also have an advantage. The seniors brought this wealth of knowledge, this understanding, professionalism, and pure passion to the table. The students had an advantage of technology, and knowing the mapping technology. So putting these two together was a beautiful thing.”
“It’s been a massive amount of work, but I think it’s a starting point,” he said. “This is heritage we’re showing today and it fits into a larger cultural piece which I think is incredibly important. It’s going to take a long time. I have a long-term vision of how I’d like to see this grow.”
He said he’s got the time and the college is behind him with the project. “They’re very excited about the potential of how this could grow and develop,”
Now there are hundreds of colourful little virtual pins marking the Annapolis County map with hundreds of significant Annapolis County features just a click away.
Frederick explained his map to the Round Hill residents. He was a COGS student when he started. He graduated last year and is back helping out as a volunteer this year.
“We are so please to have you here today,” said Mapannapolis project designer Heather LeBlanc who introduced key project players. “The turnout shows the interest that people have in their communities, in their culture, in their heritage. It’s extraordinary that so many people are out here and we so appreciate you coming and seeing what we’ve developed in the past five years.”
Annapolis County Warden Timothy Habinski was at the map’s unveiling and lauded the work done by those involved and the community’s interest.
“There is a tendency in government, sometimes, to view culture and heritage as ‘extra.’ As an add-on that you slap on top once you’ve used up all the necessary money for infrastructure and roads and those critical things,” said Habinski. “We’ve never believed that’s the case here. Nova Scotians are first and foremost storytellers. And the stories we tell are critical to who we choose to become. They’re critical to how we chart our path now. When the Age Advantage Association first approached Annapolis County and indicated the project they were looking for support for, we were immediately excited. We saw the value of this. This is an incredibly ambitious program of essentially collecting and collating and making accessible the stories that tell us how we became the communities that we are. And I really believe they are central and critical to how we chart our path forward in Annapolis County.”
District Councillor Burt McNeil echoed the warden’s remarks. “You guys have done great things with this,” he said. “Congratulations to everybody. This is a great project and I’m sure there is going to be more to come. I’m looking forward to it. This is a great thing for Annapolis County.”