Digital Doors Open: D.O.G. Tales – In the Making

By Ahmri Vandeborne

The Arts Industry has always been one full of flexibility and changing landscapes. In mid-March, Guelph’s annual Doors Open was in full swing and ready to roll out but like everyone else in the world, the Arts Industry was forced to re-shift their focus. This year’s Doors Open Guelph (D.O.G.) is moving a Guelph favourite of touring historically and culturally significant buildings in-person, to digital storytelling. It might be a little different than anyone expected, but Guelph Arts Council and a dedicated production team are working hard to make sure it is just as captivating as the in-person event.

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Digital Doors Open Guelph features D.O.G. Tales, a series of videos scripted by Susan Ratcliffe, recorded by volunteers, and edited by Scott McGovern, that highlight stories of different sites in Guelph including the Hammond Museum of Radio, The Rectory and Catholic Hill, The Gryphon Football Pavilion, The President’s House, Bisson Dentistry, HOPE House and Lakeside Downtown, and The Junction. Videos will consist of behind-the-scenes photos of the sites and will be overlapped with audio clips of a story being told about the site. The best part? All videos and information will be hosted on one platform, guelphartsevents.com. Digital tours and additional online material are released weekly at specific times, and once they’re launched, will remain on the website for you to revisit as many times as you’d like. “Of course, COVID shaped this format - narration is recorded by volunteers on their phones/computers instead of in studio, existing visuals are sourced instead of shot, all files are shared online, etc.  The stories are what’s important, and if these videos even function almost like short podcasts, there’s value in creating content like that,” says McGovern.

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HOPE House, one of the D.O.G. Tales Sites. Photo credit: Haley Gill of HG Photography

Site Coordinator Susan Ratcliffe, who was on the very first committee for D.O.G. in 2002, has written carefully curated stories for volunteers to narrate (Cindi Conlon, Robert Cutting, Ali Jones, Mireille Massue, Marion Reidel, and Jay Wilson). When asked about the process of creating the stories, Ratcliffe noted that she pulls from various sources including the Guelph and Wellington County Museum Archives, the Guelph Historical Society journals, the GAC Walking Tour books, and from her huge collection of clippings. “I have always been a dedicated newspaper clipper and have two filing cabinets full of the clippings, photos, booklets, notes from various talks, etc.” says Ratcliffe, “My office becomes “floorganized” (a term I love to describe the piles of bits of information that cover the floor).” She says her favourite part about D.O.G. Tales is turning the tour notes that she collected into a story. “I was trying to imagine what would catch the viewers’ attention about the site, but also tell the highlights about the site accurately.”

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Susan Ratcliffe, Doors Open Guelph Site Coordinator

Though we can’t rejoice in person this year at D.O.G., we can still absolutely celebrate the histories of each of these Guelph landmarks through this new digital platform. Ratcliffe recounts one of her favourite memories from D.O.G. where tours for the Guelph Correctional Centre had massive lineups and a continuous stream of tours of 50 people or more, all day, to the point where they had to turn away more than 1000 people in line. Another memory was touring 1700 people in six hours at the Basilica. She has a feeling that Digitial D.O.G. will be even more successful, “I think we may have more participants in the Digital Doors Open because people can visit from home at their leisure and not have to devote a whole day to the event.” McGovern notes that these video tours “serve a great purpose to preserve Guelph’s own stories, images, and voices. The real benefit of this project is it still accomplishes the mission of Doors Open to create histories around buildings, but it will reach new and different audiences beyond just a weekend.” A mix of current and historical photographs will be presented, creating a document of posterity for each site. “I’m excited to see the responses to these videos, and the conversations that can result by having them available to everyone,” says McGovern.

DOG Tales will be released weekly from August 25 – September 30. Watch a tour and enjoy Guelph’s history being brought to your own home! For a full schedule, released tours, and more information, visit  guelphartsevents.com.

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