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New Mobile App Puts Toronto’s Past in Users’ Hands

Touch and swipe your way through the centuries.

Screenshots of Toronto in Time.

Toronto in Time, a mobile app for iOS and Android that was released earlier today, hopes to get Torontonians using their smartphones for something a little more scholarly than text messaging. It’s a handheld gateway into more than 150 different events of local historical significance.

Admittedly, it sounds pretty dry, but it’s more fun to play with than you might expect.

The free app—the result of a partnership between the Historica-Dominion Institute (makers of Heritage Minutes), the City of Toronto, and Heritage Toronto—rises above its textbooky concept because of the cleverness of its interface. Each historical event in the app’s database is represented as a pushpin on a map, stuck in the spot where the event took place. When a user touches one of the pushpins, the name of the corresponding event appears on the screen. Touching the name—”The Sacking of of York,” say—brings up a page with a short blurb describing what happened, and when. Each entry has an annotated photo gallery.

The app also uses its geographical data to offer users a series of self-guided history walks. Anyone interested can choose from topics like “Arts and Letters” or “Righteous Toronto” and instantly retrieve a map with a travel route, complete with numbered pushpins that indicate different points of historical interest.

Whether anyone will actually use these features for more than five minutes is anyone’s guess. But the app is free, and for that price it’s most certainly a bargain. According to a press release from the City, funds to develop it came from the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and Sport, and the federal Department of Canadian Heritage.

In the interest of full disclosure: all three writers of Torontoist‘s weekend history series, Historicist, wrote blurbs for inclusion in the app.

Which, if anything, is even more reason for you to download it and decide for yourself whether or not it’s interesting. People without smartphones can access all of the app’s content on the web.

UPDATE: October 24, 2012, 3:30 PM A City spokesperson says there are plans to add more content to the app in the future, and also passes along these direct-download links for both versions: iOS, Android.

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