Possible new images of Tom Thompson.  Photo from Tom Thompson Art GalleryPossible new images of Tom Thompson. Photo from Tom Thompson Art Gallery

People can discover the past during a new Owen Sound walking tour

Owen Sound residents and visitors can take a step into the past by joining a new walking tour of the city.

Curator of Public Projects and Education Heather McLeese said the Living Histories self-guided historic walking tour of Owen Sound is an extension of the Living Histories: J. James exhibition currently on view at the Thom Thomson Art Gallery until March 16.

She explained that James was a local photographer in the area between 1905 and 1956.

"He was sort of the go to photographer for everything from commercial photography to portraits," explained McLeese. "You talk to any Owen Sounder and they have a photograph taken by James or one of his daughters. Two of his daughters actually worked with him and took over the business."

McLeese pointed out that the Gallery worked with local historian and writer Richard J. Thomas to create the tour.

"He's written a few books. He's working on a couple now and you talk to Richard about Owen Sound and he has a story for every different site in the area," she elaborated. "So this living history walking tour covers 22 locations. It's about an hour walk around the city."

McLeese said the tour should help participants get some historic insight into the city.

“We develop a stronger connection and a deeper understanding of a place when we walk through it, hear stories about its past, and see photographs of how it once looked,” added McLeese. “This tour is the perfect combination of art and history; a true celebration of Owen Sound’s past through the local lens of notable photographer J. James. A must-do and see experience for residents and visitors alike.”

People can walk at their own pace through stories of the downtown businesses, shops, and cultural landmarks that define the city.

"The tour starts here at the gallery, which is fun. There's a nice big image of Tom on our building," she added. "People can scan for audio clips, which Richard Thomas developed. People can scan these QR codes with their smartphone and they'll get an audio clip, hearing Richard talk about the history of each of these sites."

"It starts at the Tom and there's different signage panels up around the city that has all of the historical images and then links to the site so people can read more about what the building was," revealed McLeese.

She says even the current occupants of the historic sites are sometimes surprised to learn the history of their locations.

"Casero's is a Mexican restaurant in town that used to operate as the Owen Sound Bakery and they launched a bakery in 1927," she continued.

"And this project really just gives everyone a stronger sense of the robust history of the area. It was a really industrial town and the imagery is incredible," she said. "We're hoping people who participate in the walking tour come into the Tom and check out the exhibit while it's on view. That's the whole point. It's getting people into celebrating history of the area."

People can begin their tour by visiting: Living Histories Self-Guided Walking Tour | Owen Sound. 

A map shows 22 mustard-coloured pins containing details about each featured site. Select locations contain a link to audio recordings from Thomas illuminating the history of the city.

“Owen Sound has a compelling history, and this walking tour provides locals and visitors with the chance to step back in time and learn about some of the key places that helped define our City’s past," said Mayor Ian Boddy. "Thank you to the staff of the Tom Thomson Art Gallery for bringing such thought-provoking and educational programming to Owen Sound.”

"The title of the exhibition, Living Histories, alludes to fact that the past is something that always exists with us in the present," added Aidan Ware, Director & Chief Curator, Tom Thomson Art Gallery. "This walking tour offers people the opportunity to experience, imagine, and appreciate Owen Sound with fresh perspective. It’s a rare glimpse into the culture and character of the times that shaped the city.”

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