KW Guidebook uses personal memories to promote local attractions

A new guidebook of Kitchener-Waterloo highlights the must-see attractions based not on architecture or history, but on the personal memories and attachments of residents and visitors to each site.

Creator Robert Motum calls the guidebook’s stories ‘beautifully human’

The Huether Hotel in uptown Waterloo is one of the locations in the KW Guidebook. (Kate Bueckert/CBC News)

The restaurant where a woman met the man she knew she would marry...

The church where a person who doesn't believe in God began to believe in people again...
The KW Guidebook will be launched on Oct. 1 with a walking tour. (KW Guidebook)

The time someone ran into Donald Sutherland antique hunting in St. Jacobs.

Personal memories like these make up a new guidebook for Kitchener-Waterloo.

"These attractions in my book are these stories that have been submitted … each connected to a place. So there's, 'I had my first kiss on this park bench,' there's the route that your neighbour walks her dog every morning, the place where a family of Syrian newcomers to our region started to feel at home," KW Guidebook creator and editor Robert Motum told CBC News.

From heartwarming to gut-wrenching

He built a website and invited people to submit their memories. He got about 80 responses over several months and 50 of those made it into the guidebook.
Waterloo Park is in the KW Guidebook as a location where a refugee family first felt at home in Canada. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

"It was a great moment in the day when an email would pop into my inbox and I'd get to experience this small, intimate glance at somebody's experience of our region," he said, sitting in the Huether Hotel in Waterloo, the site of one of the memories. "Several of them are very heartwarming or comical, but there are some that are extremely gut-wrenching."

The stories range from a 1916 memory passed down through generations to a memory from this year. 

Each location has been plotted on a map in the guidebook, much like a tourist guidebook, and each entry includes a sketch by local artist Madeline Samms.
Victoria Park in Kitchener by artist Madeline Samms. (KW Guidebook)

"It was exciting to see these sites through other's memories," Samms said.

"Some of the places I had known before and it changes how you see them. A seemingly unmemorable crosswalk can be the location of a life-changing night for someone. This project is different from anything I've worked on and it was a privilege to be able to illustrate a collection of personal memories. People are trusting me to help tell their stories. "

Launches with walk

To celebrate the book launch, Motum will give a walking tour of the entire map – which will take eight to 10 hours in total – and reading from the guidebook.

He does not expect people to walk with him the entire time.

"We'll be posting where we're going to be so you can meet us along the way and experience some of it, you can filter in and out, or you can follow our Snapchat, KWGuidebook, that's the username," Motum said.
Robert Motum created and edited the KW Guidebook. (Kate Bueckert/CBC News)

The tour will start at Renison University College at 10:30 a.m. and will continue through the university campuses, Waterloo Park and uptown Waterloo. It will continue after lunch, starting in downtown Kitchener at the Conrad Centre for the Performing Arts.

At each location, they'll post a 10-second video to Snapchat, which Motum said will "kind of beautifully disappears after 24 hours as these memories fade."