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Q&A with Lillian H. Smith's Digital Storyteller Christina Wong

October 16, 2015 | Jennifer | Comments (6)

Boys and Girls House
Photo Credit: Toronto Public Library Digital Archive; Boys and Girls House (1922-1963), St. George St., w. side, between College & Russell Sts.

Christina Wong, Toronto Public Library staff, is passionate about collecting stories. City landmarks may change over time, but the spirit of a place is made boundless by its memories. To honour the 20th anniversary of Lillian H. Smith Branch, Wong has launched the Story Project: tales that commemorate the Boys and Girls House, the people who loved it, the physical library collection, and how it all fits together in the Kensington Chinatown community. See the Story Project link here.   

Christina Wong in front of Lillian H. Smith Branch
Photo Credit: Elizabeth Beddall/Metro News

What sparked the story project?

I've always been interested in people's stories -  both my MA and PhD involved a lot of oral interviews. And a lot of my research involves story collecting (and mapping). In London (UK), I worked on three oral history projects that looked at the British Chinese culture; the residents of Cazenove Road; and more recently, the changes of the South Bank. When the call went out asking for staff proposals, I saw this as a perfect opportunity to take what I learned from my own research and my past projects and apply it to a more local context.

Have you discovered anything surprising about Lillian H. Smith Branch or its surrounding community?

Although I was told this during a Jane's Walk (led by Daniel Rotsztain and Barbara Myrvold) earlier this year, it has to be finding out that there are someone's ashes in the foundation of the building! 

Why is it important to preserve the memories of a place?

The city is changing so quickly that sometimes we forget what used to be in its place. Documenting these changes is a way of making sure we don't forget.

Everybody has a story to tell.  What other platforms can Torontonians use to share theirs?

I became very excited when I found out that the city was finally getting its own museum: Myseum of Toronto. Although it's not an actual brick and mortar kind of place, Myseum is a site where Torontonians can contribute their stories, memories, artifacts. I believe they also have pop-up events happening throughout the city, so people can contribute that way as well. 

Not Toronto-specific, but another pretty cool project is Tale of a Town run by the folks of Fixt Point Theatre. They have a storymobile that is travelling across the country recording stories on the main street of various cities.

What message would you have for Lillian H. Smith today?

Thank you.  Xiè xie.  Dòjeh.  Cảm ơn.  Merci.  Gracias.  Obrigado.  Gomawo.  


Lillian H. Smith library, in the heart of the Discovery District, Chinatown and Kensington Market, is a district branch of Toronto Public Library. Learn more about your local library & community, and while you're at it, drop us a comment. If you are visiting us in person, look for the bronze gryphons guarding our door.