A Sticky Sort of History
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A Sticky Sort of History

The Toronto Dreams Project rolls out "sticky plaques" to tell the city's stories.

Where in Toronto {a href="http://torontodreamsproject.blogspot.ca/2011/03/elizabeth-taylors-love-nest.html"}did this happen{/a}? Try scanning this photo with your phone to find out. Photo courtesy of Adam Bunch.

Toronto does a good job of marking its past. In most parts of the city you’re rarely far from a historical marker, whether it’s a brief note of a home’s age or fully-illustrated pillars covering thousands of years.

Whatever the size though, there’s only so much information that can physically be placed on a plaque. Local history enthusiast Adam Bunch has come up with one solution: the “sticky plaque,” a sticker with a QR code which allows the curious to learn more about places where “something cool [or sad] and historical happened on this spot.”

The sticky plaques are the latest manifestation of the Toronto Dreams Project that Bunch has worked on since 2010. While researching material for postcards about Toronto’s past that he placed around the city, he realized just how many stories are lurking out there that deserve some sort of commemoration. Trying to figure out how to bring a guerilla-style approach to local history, and inspired by street artists and organizations like the Toronto Public Space Committee, Bunch thought about suggestions he received regarding printing QR codes on the postcards. He realized that large stickers could be printed cheaply and posted near existing traditional plaques to add to the information they include, or in spots where they currently don’t exist. The links go to pieces that Bunch has written or to other relevant sites that he finds informative (including Torontoist).

So far, about two dozen sticky plaques have been posted around the city, commemorating events ranging from fatal Christmas Eve streetcar crashes to William Faulkner’s drunken adventures in a biplane at the University of Toronto. Among his favourites is the story of the statue of King Edward VII in Queen’s Park, which originally stood in Delhi, India. After independence, the statue was removed from its prime location and left to rot with other colonial monuments until it was shipped to Toronto in the late 1960s.

The stickers are placed in spots where they won’t cause any permanent damage if removed. While Bunch hasn’t asked for permission to place them and while some have disappeared or been postered over, it appears most of the first batch is still intact. Depending on time and “finding a good working printer,” Bunch hopes to have 100 in place by summer’s end, an impressive number for a one-person operation.

A {a href="http://torontodreamsproject.blogspot.ca/2010/08/t-dots-first-hanging.html"}not-so-happy commemoration{/a}. Photo courtesy Adam Bunch.

A key goal of the sticky plaques is to draw attention to heritage at a time when historical institutions and archival knowledge are under attack from the federal and municipal governments. Bunch points to the threats made to Toronto museums during the Ford administration’s budget exercises and the Harper government’s cuts to Parks Canada as troublesome signs, and is especially rankled by “the systematic elimination of all information there is not a business case for” at Library and Archives Canada. People “may not always think of Toronto as the most fascinating historical city in the world,” he notes, “but we have a lot of it here. There are a lot of really neat stories that people don’t know, and if we don’t know them, then you don’t realize it’s all around you and you risk losing it.”