— Downtown Edmonton Community League Update —

Building on history

Historically-themed social media accounts with names like @Provincial Archives of Alberta and @ Friends of Royal Museum of Alberta Society aren’t typically what you’d expect the under-40 crowd to retweet and regram. And yet, retro #yeg posts have been making waves lately. To dive into this trend, just take a look at the profile pics of who’s sharing out old photos of Edmonton’s core.

Thirty-something Ester Malzahn says, “Old postcards are one of my favourite things to share because it shows how we present ourselves to outsiders.” Malzahn uses Peel’s Prairie Postcards as an online resource.

Heritage Forward’s Dawn Valentine says events like Heart Bombs get attention. “There are young people in their 20s and 30s that care about these old, decrepit buildings from way before their time. Social media is easy and immediate when you want to share with others your awe and/or disdain of old buildings we’ve demolished like the Court House and the Post Office.”

The outpouring of love for the doomed downtown El Mirador building on the Valentine’s Day weekend underscores that younger people are beginning to feel proprietary about Downtown’s dwindling heritage inventory.

Valentine says she’s noticed younger people have an affinity with old buildings as gathering places because of the warmth and history and feel of the space. “Plus old retro buildings just look fabulous in the background of your selfie!”

Dan Rose, (@the_rosbif) who co-founded Heritage Forward in 2015, has been actively using social media to raise awareness of historic buildings, going so far as to pose his dog Dot in front of heritage buildings so they can be shared out on Insta:

Heritage building enthusiast Dane Ryksen has been building his Insta account @_ citizen_dane_ for a couple of years and has a solid following for his shares of photos and stories of the city’s heritage buildings.

“To me, there’s no better place to share the city’s history than online – the amount of engagement you get is unrivalled,” says Ryksen. “It’s easier now than ever to spread these interesting and frankly really fascinating stories about Edmonton’s past, and people seem to enjoy that. Nearly every post I do, I’ll get comments going, “I walk by there every day and have always wondered about it,” or “I didn’t even know that building was there.” A recent post from Ryksen about the soon-to-be torn down Roosevelt Apartments generated lots of discussion, with sympathy for the argument that buildings should be saved or repurposed instead of simply being demolished.

This intentional shift towards reducing our personal and collective footprints by reusing instead of buying new, includes consideration of the worth of our existing building stock.

Historian Shirley Lowe says there’s no way of measuring interest of a new generation, but adds, “New ideas need old buildings.” She adds, “People just starting out can see the value of smaller, older, buildings.” She says they’re “bumping places,” places you can go to meet people.

“We lost too many beautiful, monumental buildings in Edmonton area to demo during an era when people didn’t bat an eye to full building demo (60s 70s). It was devastating to out heritage architecture landscape. Full building demo should never be normalized.” via Twitter

Graeme Matichuk: @kilograeme

Ryksen notes it bridges generations. He says when he shares on social media he gets feedback from people who have experienced the buildings themselves “back in the day.” Mahlzan says younger people “are interested in exploring the past, because history and place are so fundamental to our sense of identity.”

Follow and share using the #yegheritage and #yeghistory hashtags.