History project about penitentiaries wins award

An oral history project documenting the links between the city of Kingston and the region’s correctional facilities has received the Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Award for Excellence in Conservation.

The 12-month-long project - titled “In Our Own Words: Links Between Kingston’s Heritage and its Penitentiaries” and organized by the Friends of the Penitentiary Museum group - sought to capture the historical and contemporary social, cultural, political and economic connections between the city and its penitentiaries.

The award recognized the project for its “exemplary contributions to heritage conservation.”

Project lead Bronwyn Jaques, with the help of several volunteers, interviewed more than 50 current and former CSC employees, community members, local businesses and former inmates to preserve their memories for future generations.

According to Dave St. Onge, curator of Canada’s Penitentiary Museum and a Friends member, oral history projects like this one are an important tool for historians. Once people are gone, so too are their personal stories, memories and thoughts on the relationship between CSC’s institutions and the wider community.

The award is a nice acknowledgement of all the hard work the group put into the project, he added.

The oral history recordings and related documents are now digitally and physically catalogued and archived at the museum for future researchers to take advantage of.

Discussions will soon begin regarding how to format the information for wider consumption, perhaps in the form of a book.

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