Saskatoon’s Heritage in the palm of your hand

By: Sarah Ferguson March, 2013

A university of Saskatchewan student is rewriting Saskatoon’s history—and now that history fits in the palm of your hand.

Shawn Storry, a Fine Arts student at the University of Saskatchewan, has revitalized the city’s Broadway District with the help of modern technology. This past spring, he took part in a newly developed cultural heritage and mapping course on campus, developed by the university’s Interdisciplinary Centre for Creativity and Culture (ICCC).

“I thought it sounded perfect because I love mapping and I love heritage,” Storry says. “Plus, I’m an art student, so why not?”

Keith Carlson, ICCC director explains, “The class enabled Shawn to do both art and urban planning, he'd tried other classes, but he wasn’t able to use both parts of himself.”

Storry’s passion led to a paid internship with the City of Saskatoon, where he created Saskatoon’s first heritage smartphone application.

Now, Saskatoon residents and tourists have a historical glimpse of the Broadway District at their fingertips, with the simple touch of a screen.

Andrew Dunlop, course instructor, says “Shawn’s project is all about preserving the history of the Broadway District in a new creative way.”

Storry adds, “It’s almost like a piece of installation art. The Broadway area of Saskatoon is steeped in historic tradition.”

The project uses smartphone Quick Response (QR) codes to inform the public about Broadway’s historical building sites. Residents and shoppers can scan the codes with their smartphones, and partake in a walkabout tour of the area-- at their own pace.

The tour features 30 of Broadway’s most popular businesses, and highlights the buildings in which they are housed. Sarah marchildon, director of the Broadway Business Improvement District (BBID) explains, “It’s not so much about the business as it is about the site that a business is located on.”

Saskatoon’s Broadway District extends from 8th-12th street, and houses some of the region’s oldest buildings. “Broadway was the original downtown of Saskatoon,” says marchildon.

The tour also includes six photo essays constructed by Storry. “They lead the viewer through the evolution of a building, from the time it was built to how it is being used today,” he adds. To take part, participants need to download a QR scanning application to their phones. Marchildon says, “There are many versions and some are free…if you’ve got an app and it doesn’t work, just download another app- all types of smartphones work on the tour.”

Storry’s project was made possible through a three way partnership between the University of Saskatoon, the BBID and the city itself. Kevin Kitchen, community initiatives manager, City of Saskatoon, adds, “Shawn’s heritage tour project is part of a cultural mapping plan aimed to better understand the importance of arts and culture in our city.”

Marchildon says, “standing on Broadway, seeing the building in front of you, you get more of an experience by following the QR codes than you would by simply reading about it.”

“Shawn took the project and ran with it, and we are very happy with the results.”