History Class Explores Surrey’s Legacy Using DIY Tech

Kyle Jackson’s HIST 2390 uses technology to reframe history

John Churchland and his wife Emma opened the Surrey Centre General Store in April 1891. The operated it for almost 10 years before selling it to James Oxenham in 1910. (surreyhistory.ca)

Most university students have sat through a tiresome lecture and reached for their phones to alleviate the boredom. But for students in Kyle Jackson’s History 2390 class, “History Go! An Interactive Historical Experience”, using their phones will become part of the lesson.

Beyond simply taking a history course, they are also creating an app about the city of Surrey and its past, thereby providing both visitors and locals with a chance to learn about the history of the area as they explore it.

Those enrolled in the course argue that Surrey has much more history to offer than most might realize.

“It’s a very unique place and there are so many stories yet to be told,” says Kate Heikkila, the reference specialist with Surrey Archives. “But it’s a perception that, just because it’s recent, [the city] doesn’t have history.”

The KPU history class will be digging through maps, pictures, and other documents with Surrey Archives to discover long-hidden and forgotten stories that are key to the development of our community. As Jackson mentions, the history of the Indigenous people inhabiting Surrey dates back tens of thousands of years, and the class will work to cover these events as well as those that focus on European settlers.

Still, the history of Surrey typically remains unnoticed, perhaps because the city itself is largely unknown. Because of this, the History 2390 app will also benefit many who do not live here.

Generally, history lives in textbooks, class lectures, and essays, which are not easily accessible or inviting for the average person. The prevalence of this environment, in which academia has no audience and the audience has no academia, is what Jackson hopes to change. Instead of turning to unreliable sources such as Wikipedia, community members who are not enrolled in post-secondary school will be able to use the app to access quality historical records.

Jackson says that the course’s objective is “modernizing history” through “a lot of fun and experimenting.” He encourages students who are interested to join the course, adding that history “has to be tech savvy to stay relevant.”

Heikkila hopes that users of the app will get a taste of what Surrey’s history has to offer and then pursue it further independently. She holds the same hope for the students who are currently researching, and feels that details about our heritage is information we all deserve to have.

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