WLU students map Cambridge's history

Several projects from geography and environmental studies students at Wilfrid Laurier University will be used to build a heritage map for Cambridge, city staff say.

Projects will be used to build a heritage map for the city

The City of Cambridge paired up with fourth-year geography and environmental studies students at Wilfrid Laurier University to brainstorm ideas for a heritage map. (Cambridge Visitor Centre)

Build a heritage map for Cambridge and tell interesting stories – that was the broad assignment given to a group of fourth-year geography and environmental students at Wilfrid Laurier University this past semester.

"They knew very little about Cambridge, but they really kind of immersed themselves," professor Andrew Spring said. "It's these three tiny towns that came together and these tiny towns had their own pretty amazing stories."

The students were limited in how far they could take the project given they only had four months, Spring said. But he and city officials were very impressed when some of the projects were presented and the students had created something that could almost be implemented immediately.

Mapping heritage

The assignment was part of the Capstone Urban Sustainability Project at the university, which is a partnership between Laurier and Cambridge to give students an opportunity to use the skills they've learned about becoming consultants in a real way.

The goal wasn't to create an actual working app or website, but Spring said most of the students did or came very close.

The winning group, which took home $2,000, created a database of people in four cemeteries in the city and told stories of some of them.

One group of students took names found in Cambridge cemeteries and mapped out important spots in that person's life in the city. (Pioneer project website)

One of the people featured is Otto Klotz, who moved to Preston in 1867. He owned the Klotz Hotel and served on Preston's board of school trustees. The database includes a map showing where Klotz was interred, as well as other notable locations such as the Cambridge Masonic Centre and the Old Klotz Hotel.

Students who worked together to create a geotour of Cambridge received the highest mark in the class, professor Andrew Spring said. (Cambridge GeoTours project website)

While it didn't place in the top three, another group received the highest academic mark for creating a geotour of the city, similar to geocaching, but each cache leads to the next heritage destination in this case.

Map could be used anywhere

City staff said the projects would be used moving forward as information in developing a heritage map residents and visitors will be able to use.

George Barnes, the city's director of community services operations, helped judge the projects and said he was excited to work with the students.

"I am confident that we will come out of this project with an interactive heritage map that could be transferable to any community," he said in an email Tuesday.