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Where to start

Your community’s Doors Open Ontario event can be as simple or ambitious as you wish. Whether your community features 10 properties or over 100, your event should:

  • promote pride in your community’s heritage
  • draw visitors from other areas of Ontario, Canada and abroad
  • build a legacy by integrating heritage and culture into community planning and events
  • generate economic and business opportunities at the community level through programming and heritage tourism packages, and in some cases, the development and sale of related merchandise
  • foster strategic alliances among a range of community partners
  • create opportunities for sustainable community tourism development and partnerships

In many cases, Doors Open events can be linked with existing festivals, attractions and tours in the region to maximize tourism opportunities. Linking to an existing festival or event also allows organizers to use the expertise and skills of the existing volunteer base.

Establishing an Organizing Committee

Each community must form a Doors Open organizing committee, usually consisting of representatives from municipal or regional heritage, tourism, arts and culture units, Municipal Heritage Advisory Committees (formerly called LACACs), Architectural Conservancy of Ontario branches, heritage/historical organizations, tourism organizations, arts councils, chambers of commerce and business associations.

Event co-ordination will vary depending on the size and scope of the community event. In some communities, an event coordinator may need to be appointed while in others, the role may be assumed by a volunteer or staff member from a participating organization or municipality.

Most communities have opted to co-ordinate events by committee. Specific people are charged with the tasks of identifying properties, interpretive/educational programming, marketing/promotion, event management and volunteer recruitment.

One lead contact must be appointed by the local Doors Open organizing committee to co-ordinate, manage and act as liaison between the Ontario Heritage Trust and the participating community/community cluster. The name and contact information of the lead contact may be made available by the Trust to other organizers, stakeholders or members of the media for the purposes of supporting or promoting Doors Open Ontario.

The committee determines the date(s) of their community Doors Open event, and the hours that sites will be open. Events typically run for a single day or two days during a weekend, with sites open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Events must be held between April 21, 2018 and October 28, 2018. Spreading Doors Open Ontario events over a six-month season allows your community to choose the most appropriate date for your region.

Selecting properties

The range of suitable Doors Open Ontario heritage sites is varied and can help participants expand their understanding of heritage properties. It should include sites and buildings that are, and have been central to, the character of your community. Examples could include: commercial buildings, places of worship, cemeteries, inns, schools, factories, theatres, boats, gardens, museums, fire halls, railway stations, lighthouses, sports complexes, observation towers, private galleries, civic buildings, lookouts, jails, industrial sites and private homes. Event coordinators are also encouraged to incorporate natural heritage sites and trail systems into their events, where possible.

To help with future site selection and planning, listed below are the themes for Doors Open Ontario for the next several years:

YearInterpretive theme
2019Communications
2020Environment
2021Design
2022Agriculture
2023Music

To facilitate a greater number of multi-site visits per participant, whenever possible, three or more sites should be clustered together within walking distance or a short driving distance. A property may have a disappointing visitor turnout if it is difficult to find, is isolated or is a long distance from most of the other participating sites.

Developing events/activities/exhibits

Doors Open Ontario is an ideal vehicle for organizing special events or activities in your community. Organizers might want to consider guided walks and tours, concerts, exhibitions, book readings, craft displays, lectures or talks, re-enactments and special children’s activities.

Guided walks and tours are popular. Organizers may use them to illustrate the work of an architect, a special period in time or the history of a district. Properties can also be used as the setting for a historical lecture, art exhibition or musical concert. Re-enactments also attract crowds – consider recreating a famous event, sporting event or court case that occurred at a property.

Interpreting properties

Visitors must receive information about the historical, cultural, natural or architectural significance of all participating Doors Open Ontario properties. Information may be provided by any convenient means such as flyers, interpretive panels, multimedia shows, lectures, exhibitions and informal tours or through discussions with the volunteers. Photocopies of existing information brochures or handouts may be sufficient.

The Trust provides a template for a basic Property Interpretation Flyer as part of the resource materials available to participating communities.