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Kingston’s swamp ward subject of a photo exhibit through the month of June

Pictures of Kingston's swamp district residents and buildings detail a visual history of the area

For the last several years, Laura Murray has been developing an oral history of the Swamp Ward just north of Kingston’s downtown core.

That project culminated in a multi-episode audio documentary told by current and past residents.

Murray, a Queen’s University professor, says those interviews resulted in the new photograph exhibit called “Facing the Street.”

“When I was interviewing people, I would say, “Hey, you got any family photographs?” And they would have some and we would talk about them.”

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Kingston photographer Chris Miner was instrumental in helping enlarge the small old photographs Murray was allowed to borrow.

“Very tiny prints, but because of the resolution of the scanner, we can blow them up to have a really decent size print.”

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Miner says he also wanted to capture the photographs as historical objects and didn’t touch them up.

Miner indicates one of the pictures shows a couple sitting together, with the man in his First World War uniform.

“I’ve made no attempt to hide this giant tear that’s in the original photograph and I deliberately propped up the lid of my scanner so that there would be a bit of curl in the photograph showing, so the dark shadow showing is not something I just added.”

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The Swamp Ward is a relatively undocumented area in Kingston’s history, according to Murray, in large part because it was a working-class district.

“From John Street, you would have heard the whistle of the tannery in the mornings, at lunch, after lunch, in the evening, and all the waves of women from the tannery would be walking up these streets on their way home.”

It was also an area where new immigrants would first settle, Murray says.

“Ukrainians came through here. It was a Jewish neighbourhood. Francophones, Irish. From various different places, this is kind of where they landed.”

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Enlarged versions of the original photographs have been set up throughout the ward in the area where the pictures were taken.

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Another 25 pictures also hang in The Elm Street cafe.

The exhibit runs through the month of June.

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