Digital storytelling project highlights Hamilton history and community

Group picture of professors, students and older adults holding the Writing Through Time photobooks.

The Writing Through Time program brought together students and older adults in the community to share digital skills and stories between generations.

“Writing stories is the easy part these days,” says writer Lynda DiPietro.  The real problem is dealing with the formatting, the technology and a bunch of other issues that make things difficult. “Seems that system platforms are designed to do their best to kill the creative spirit by bogging writers down in tedious details.”

DiPietro is a Hamilton resident who signed up for the “Writing Through Time” digital storytelling program offered in partnership with Hamilton Public Library and McMaster’s Reading Lab.

The program was designed to bring together students and community members to learn digital skills and share stories between generations.

The program was supported by an interdisciplinary Future of Canada Project grant called “Bringing hope and well-being to community-dwelling older Ontarians in the pandemic world through creative writing and digital literacy learning.”

Principal investigator and Reading Lab director Victor Kuperman worked with a cross-faculty team that included Brian Detlor from the DeGroote School Business; James Gillett from the Faculty of Social Sciences; and Ranil Sonnadara and Brenda Vrkljan from the Faculty of Health Sciences.

They began with weekly meetings preparing participants for digital storytelling: Providing tablet devices, showing them how to use Zoom, and getting them comfortable using new digital tools and websites to submit stories.

After that, participants started digging through Hamilton Public Library’s Archives and their own photo albums for inspiration, and taking turns sharing story drafts with fellow writers.

“It was really special to get to know people in Hamilton’s community that I wouldn’t have had a chance to meet otherwise,” said Lucy Thomas, a recent graduate of the Cognitive Science of Language undergraduate program, who assisted in running the weekly meetings.

Three black-and-white thumbnail photo collages, the covers of photo books called Writing Through Time
Sixty-two pieces of writing are available to read in three issues of the “Writing Through Time” photobooks. 

A year later, after three successful sessions of the program, 62 pieces of writing are available to read in three issues of the “Writing Through Time” photobooks.

Submissions included non-fiction stories about Hamilton’s buildings and waterfalls, autobiographical and biographical stories, poetry, and creative writing inspired by both recent and historical photos.

Lynda DiPietro on stage at the Writing Through Time Finale event
Lynda DiPietro takes the stage at the Writing Through Time Finale event, which took place on February 29, 2024 at Hamilton Public Library Central.

DiPietro’s stories were featured in each issue, and last month she joined fellow writers and community members at Hamilton Public Library’s Central branch to celebrate the publications and finale of the program.

After taking the stage to read a special story from the second issue about a cherished friend, “The Man Next Door,” DiPietro took a moment to speak about her experience of the program.

“Writing is often a solitary endeavour,” she said. “Having the opportunity to participate in this innovative program opened up a world of exposure to numerous genres of writing, wonderful fun, camaraderie, and introduction to a host of interesting people.

I made connections to some people that I still see on a regular basis. These are people that I might never have met otherwise prior to this program.

“It made a huge difference in my life and I think in many other people’s lives who have had the good fortune to be participants.”

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