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Changing Landscapes: Unearthing London’s Past

Bird's Eye of Victoria Park
Birds Eye View sketch of the Barracks.
Courtesy of D.R. Poulton & Associates


Our changing landscapes can reveal much about how communities develop and we can learn much about London’s past by studying how our landscape has changed.

Did you know that London Ontario contains hundreds of archaeological sites scattered throughout the city? Some of these sites might even be located in your neighborhood.  A new exhibit at the Museum of Ontario Archaeology will explore London’s Changing Landscapes and provide insight on how archaeology is conducted.  The early history of London includes aboriginal, pioneer, and early military functions. With new development and reuse of our landscape,  London’s history can be studied through excavated archaeological sites, archived stories, maps, and photographs.

In Ontario, archaeology is regulated by the Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and Sport under the Ontario Heritage Act. Since 1974, this Act defines the process that evaluates, investigates, and manages cultural heritage resources that characterizes our province.  New development within the city such as subdivisions, road widening, and sewer lines begins with an archaeological assessment by a Cultural Resource Management firm or licensed Archaeologist. If archaeological sites are found, further steps are taken to understand the heritage value of the site as well as placing it on the archaeological sites database maintained by the Ministry. Then an archaeological excavation of the site can be conducted to collect and preserve cultural heritage information.

London 2
Image of the Crystal Palace (round structure on the left)
Courtesy of D.R. Poulton & Associates.

With the changing landscapes of our city, we are able to unearth history.  Victoria Park is a great example of London’s changing landscapes.  The earliest stage of Victoria Park begins with the construction of the Barracks in 1837 in response to the William Lyon Mackenzie Uprising taking hold of Upper Canada. With the rebellion gaining momentum in the area, elements of the British 32nd Regiment of Foot arrived by sleigh in January 1838. After an initial forest clearing of what is now downtown London, construction of the barracks and officers quarters began on the land of Victoria Park. Although the uprising never impacted London directly, the incoming regiments signaled a permanent population and economic increase.

Changing Landscapes encourages you to investigate four separate areas of our city where archaeological sites have been investigated:  Victoria Park, Springbank Park, Jackson District, and Kensall Park. Take the journey from London’s earliest settlements to see how these sites have evolved today.

The exhibit was on display at MOA October 21st, 2015 – March 20th, 2016

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