Building Multicultural History Timelines With VITA

Guest blog post from Victoria Scioli, placement student from University of Toronto Mississauga History Program

Over the past semester, I had the opportunity to work on the multicultural timelines with OurDigitalWorld. I became acquainted with the OurOntario.ca database and used the VITA Toolkit to implement the work. I really enjoyed having access to so much primary source material and learning how to search for appropriate sources to create the timelines.

Being a history student, much of my time is spent looking at primary sources to use in research papers, but I had never used them in a creative format like a timeline before. I spent a lot of time looking at the primary sources related to the histories of Japanese-Canadians, the Black community, and women in Ontario and trying to come up with a storyline that would best present significant information to the reader. I learned how to keep my descriptions concise and pick primary sources that could best provide insight into these different aspects of Ontario’s history.

When I was younger, I remember learning about the Japanese Internment but never any details about what the camps looked like nor images and testimonies of men and women who suffered the effects of this kind of discrimination. While working on my timeline, I was able to look at primary sources that pictured what the conditions were like for men at Internment camps like the one in Schreiber, Ontario. I also learned about significant survivors like author Yon Shimizu and Japanese Canadian politician Bev Oda. Both of these people contributed to creating awareness of the ways Japanese Canadians were discriminated against during the war and how that generation were forced to restart their lives in Canada. I learned a great deal from the research that went into these timelines, I hope that it inspires viewers to learn more on each of the subjects. 

One issue I ran into with the timeline feature was finding a proper way to begin and end my timeline that would provide the reader with context to the history before jumping into the actual items being featured. This was resolved by adding umbrella panels for my start and end dates. These allowed me to provide a short “Introduction” and “Conclusion” for the timeline. They introduce the viewer to any important information or advisory before getting into the timeline content and provide a short summary.

It was such a pleasure to work on such an interesting project! I found that the timelines are a great way to engage with primary source materials from different institutions in order to illustrate and explore significant events in Ontario’s history.

Explore the timelines:

Japanese Internment in Ontario and its Impact

The Progression of Settler Women’s Roles in Ontario From 1800s to 1960s

A Timeline of Black History and Significant Figures in Ontario