100 Watts : Doors Open, Minds Closed

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My column this week has to do with 2 main concerns I have with the 2012 Doors Open event in Aurora.  You can read it here:

V12N33P04.pdf
Download this file

This matter was also the subject of a delegation I made to the Heritage Advisory Committee on June 11th, minutes of that meeting are available here:  http://www.town.aurora.on.ca/app/wa/mediaEntry?mediaEntryId=60185

The total list of 21 sites for Open Doors Aurora this year can be found online here: 

My first issue with the site selection is that of these 21 sites only 6 are private buildings that restrict access, those being:

  • Trumpeter Swan Gardens
  • Holy Forty Martyrs of Sebaste Romanian Orthodox Church “Former Mechanic Hall & Lions Club”
  • Aurora Rising Sun Masonic Lodge
  • The Brome House
  • Hartman’s Corners School
  • The Aurora Armoury

Of the remaining 15 sites 9 are “Public” buildings:

  • Hillary House & Koffler Museum of Medicine
  • Vic’s Shoe Repair
  • George Russell House – Bijoy’s Restaurant
  • Benjamin Stephenson House – Pace Credit Union
  • Aurora Cemetery
  • Aurora Public Library
  • Church Street Montessori
  • Aurora Cultural Centre
  • The Charles Henry Sheppard House & Sheppard Bush Conservation Area
The remaining 6 are public events separate from places that have “closed doors”.

  • Newmarket & Aurora Car Club
  • Scarborough Model Railroads at Victoria Hall “Disciples of Christ Church”
  • A Walking Tour East of Yonge Street
  • Kids Discovery Area
  • Vandorf Woodlot
  • Aurora Farmers’ Market & Artisan Fair

If you do the math that’s just over 1/4 of the sites who would actually be “opening their doors”, with the rest of the sites there seems to be a great effort painting false doors.

American novelist John Updike uses the metaphor of doors to explain narratology :

“A narrative is like a room on whose walls a number of false doors have been painted; while within the narrative, we have many apparent choices of exit, but when the author leads us to one particular door, we know it is the right one because it opens.”

There is no evidence that the site selection for this year’s Doors Open event has been done in a way that will create a satisfying narrative, especially when visitors are being led to sites whose doors have already been left wide open.

The response to my delegation from the Town’s Heritage Planning Manager regarding the site selection is that Doors Open is not “black & white”.

Interesting, especially when the Heritage Canada Website ( http://www.heritagecanada.org/en/visit-iscover/doors-open-canada ) has stated, in black & white, the exact opposite :

The Doors Open concept is a simple one: buildings of architectural and historical significance, many of which are not normally open to the public, open their doors to visitors for a day or a weekend. 

So the effort put forward in site selection of this year’s doors open contradicts this simple concept.  

Auroran’s will not be visiting many sites not normally open to the public, just a fraction of them.

The Heritage Planning manager then went on to explain how some of the sites were chosen, and there was a conscious effort not to select sites that had been used previous for fear of them being “stale”.

But this is also bullshit as 8 sites, almost half, are repeats from last years event:

  • Scarborough Model Railroads
  • A Walking Tour East of Yonge Street
  • Rising Sun Masonic Lodge
  • Vic’s Shoe Repair
  • Trumpeter Swan Gardens
  • Aurora Farmer’s Market
  • Public Library
  • Cultural Centre

The second, and more disconcerting irregularity I brought forth in my delegation had to deal with how the site selection in Aurora has failed to adhere to the theme of “Defending a Nation” as put forth by Doors Open Ontario on their website here:

2012 commemorates the bicentennial of the War of 1812, and the opportunity to learn about this aspect of our heritage is not being afforded to Aurorans.

I was informed by the Heritage Planning manager that the theme was not “obligatory” yet no rationale was provided as to why the theme was eschewed.

I addressed my dissatisfaction to the committee and the planning manager as of my delegation the only site that tied in with this theme was the Aurora Cemetery.  The fact that the Aurora Public Library was creating some sort of display does nothing to meet the expectation that “Doors Open Ontario participants will no doubt notice, as they visit a diverse range of sites connected to the war.”

An incredibly insulting response as to why few sites were selected included mention that the Aurora Legion was approached and they declined.  

That sounds like bullshit to me. How could they not wish to drive traffic to their branch?  How could they not want to be part of this event?

Sound to me like that the organizers gave up, to early and too easily.

Just like they gave up with securing the Aurora Armoury, which was not included as a site before making my delegation.

The same answer was given: we approached them and they declined, some bullshit answer that they were too busy with the change-over of buildings.  Why Doors Open was not coordinated to overlap with that celebration is confusing, there seems to be too much pre-occupation from the Heritage Planning manager that the date upon which Doors Open happens is carved in stone and is unmovable.  That is just icing on the top off all the bullshit.

If we are to believe the Heritage Planning Manager that Doors Open isn’t black&white, if it is instead some nebulous thing that can be extended to several “public” buildings, that can be organized without any adherence to the themes set out by the Province, or concept set out by our Country how is it that it can only occur on one date?

Interestingly enough, shortly after receiving my delegation and spewing these bullshit excuses the Aurora Armoury was suddenly added as the 21st site for the event.

Someone, or someone(s) listened.

Even more important, someone, or someone(s) actually did something.

I am convinced that the manner and approach that Aurora’s Doors Open event has been handled in the recent past, is infective, sloppy and void of passion and focus.  From a heritage programming perspective it does our town a huge disservice and the HAC needs to shore up several of these deficiencies if it is going to celebrate our town’s 150th anniversary next year.  I suggested the committee form a working group for this purpose, and that they seriously investigate innovative methods of engaging our town so as to ensure a repeat of this abysmal site selection does not spill into the 2013 event.

Otherwise, how is anyone going to know when opportunity comes a knocking in Aurora if there are no doors?
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