Pandemic project: Erin women compile centuries of history into interactive tour of their village

By: Alison Sandstrom, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,
Some started baking, others got really into a new craft, but for two Erin friends, their pandemic project turned into a three-part interactive online tour of their village spanning nearly 200 years of history.
The Erin Historical Scavenger Hunt invites participants to walk one of three routes through the village of Erin while answering questions about its past. Photographs, old maps and images pulled from historical archives are interspersed with the history lesson – along with trivia and fun facts.
The game is the creation of friends Jane Vandervliet and Eleanor Kennedy. Vandervliet explains the pair like to do projects together. They’ve built dollhouses, completed paintings and tried their hand at creating a marionette production.
“Then suddenly the pandemic came, we couldn’t get together,” Vandervliet says. “So we decided we’d do something online and this is what we came up with.”
Kennedy did the programming, while Vandervliet did most of the research and writing. She read several books on Erin’s history and poured over documents from the Wellington Archives and local library. Local community members with deep roots in the village also proved to be essential sources of information.
Vandervliet says the duo spent hundreds of hours putting the game together and “had a blast” doing it.
“For a while there it felt like a full-time job,” she says with a laugh.
When they released the tour of Erin’s Main Street business area in September — around six months after they started work on it — the positive reception encouraged them to cover two other areas of the village.
Also, as Vandervliet explains, “I had all the history in my head and I said ‘I’ve got to get it down before I forget.’”
Walking tours of the Main Street residential area and Stanley Park — once considered “Toronto’s playground” because of its popularity as a day-trip by train from the city — are now also available online.
“We just wanted to kind of draw people back after the pandemic,” Vandervliet says, explaining she and Kennedy hope the game will encourage people to visit Erin.
She notes while the “eerie” quiet of Erin’s streets during lockdown was great for taking some of the photos that are now featured in the scavenger hunt, the pair hopes their village will soon be bustling with life once again.