Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ideas for the Hard-to-buy-for Historian #11

Andrew Stewart, heritage consultant, Toronto, Ontario, has some ideas for the Toronto history lover on your list:
My nomination would be Toronto: An Illustrated History of Its First 10,000 Years edited by Ronald F. Williamson (Lorimer, 2008).
I suggest this book for several reasons:
• It is a comprehensive popular history that fills a gap in the existing literature about Toronto. In particular, it treats, seriously, the entire history of this place on the north shore of Lake Ontario, and not just the post-1750 history of Toronto. In other words, it gives equal treatment (in terms of scholarship and pages) to aboriginal (precontact) history instead of treating it as an afterthought (or before-thought). Some important information and images relating to precontact history derived from consultant archaeology -- not otherwise seen by most people -- is made available.
• It is written by scholars, writing in an accessible format and is well-edited to assure flow and consistent voice.
• It is beautifully layed-out and well-illustrated; nicely designed to be a modestly-sized and priced book (not an expensive weighty tome) -- making it even more attractive to a wider readership, including schools. Eminently giftable.
PS, despite the pitch, I had nothing to do with the book. I am simply a grateful reader -- one with a serious interest in the history of Toronto who recognizes a good thing.

My other suggestion would be a gift membership in the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario with its good magazine (Acorn) and opportunity for chapter memberships and advocacy activity.

We are losing more architecture to demolition and neglect than ever before in Ontario, despite the passage of the revised Ontario Heritage Act in 2005. The Ontario government feels it has done it's bit with this act, but to be effective, it must be enforced by municipalities. Most municipalities can't be bothered or feel they can't afford to enforce it (and alienate the citizenry).

A few months ago, we lost one of the finest Victorian buildings in the province -- Alma College in St Thomas. The ACO, founded by Eric Arthur 75 years ago, provides leadership and organization on all issues of architectural history and heritage.

Torontophobic Ontarians who track back the link to the Toronto history will find that the same publisher has on offer similar works on several other Ontario cities.
Follow @CmedMoore