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Nanaimo Community Archives video series tests viewers’ street smarts

Project compares historical facts with tongue-in-cheek fictional accounts of old streets
Nanaimo Community Archives reveals fictional and factual accounts about Nanaimo’s oldest streets, such as Haliburton Street, in a video series that challenges viewers’ history street smarts. (Nanaimo Community Archives photo)

Trivia about Nanaimo’s colourful history abounds, especially about the city’s pioneering days in the mid-1800s, and there are always fresh historical surprises being unearthed by the folks at Nanaimo Community Archives.

For instance, it’s a pretty safe bet most people don’t know that a certain street in Nanaimo’s south end is named after an author who was famous for his detective novels.

The facts and fiction behind who this person was, what he contributed to the city’s early development and why a street was named after him are featured in an episode of ‘Streetwise Nanaimo,’ a new archives project.

Christine Meutzner, Nanaimo Community Archives manager, has teamed up with videographer Douglas Harding and City of Nanaimo staff to create a series of videos in which the viewers guess which of two presented historical narratives is true and which is pure fiction.

“The premise is … we pick a street that I know the actual history of, that there’s something I can look up, and I write two of them, one is a false narrative and one is true and we present two versions of Strickland Street and the audience is asked to guess which one is correct, but they’re very hard to tell,” Meutzner said. “Most people get it wrong.”

The videos are about three minutes long, something someone can watch quickly during a coffee break.

So far, Meutzner and Harding have completed two episodes and are looking to do their next episode.

“I can only pick ones where I actually know the real story,” Meutzner said. “So, I think, our next one is going to be Howard Avenue in Harewood and then Planta Road is a possibility, Aysgarth Street in Harewood. There’s a couple good candidates where you could really spin a great tale that’s absolutely made up. It’s so much fun.”

“[You] have to make history a little more fun,” Meutzner said. “Nobody wants to listen to a talking head just standing there.”

Nanaimo residents are also asked to submit names of streets they live on for potential future episodes.

To learn more about Streetwise and view episodes, visit the Nanaimo Community Archives website at

READ ALSO: Nanaimo Community Archives asks for submissions for Heritage House Renovation Awards

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Chris Bush

About the Author: Chris Bush

As a photographer/reporter with the Nanaimo News Bulletin since 1998.
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