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Bridging history and present-day in Cumberland and the Comox Valley

On This Spot app mixes past and present to dig into history for tourists and locals alike
One of the many photos on the On This Spot app in Cumberland of a fire wheel at the Waverly from 1910 and present day. Photo by Cumberland Museum & Archives C100-004/On This Spot.

Looking back in history while standing in the present is part of the appeal of a new app that bridges locations in the Comox Valley between past and present.

On This Spot is a historic walking tour app (available for Apple and Android devices) that encourages people to explore various communities using the footprints of photographers who took photos and comparing them to recent photos. The historic photos date from the 1890s to the 1950s and illustrate using a slider the transformations Cumberland, Comox and Courtenay have undergone over the years.

“On This Spot is well-versed in assisting communities and we really wanted to highlight a variety of narratives within our community,” explained Rosslyn Shipp, executive director of the Cumberland Museum who developed the project in partnership with the museum.

The Old House Hotel Spa in Courtenay provided support for the Courtenay and Comox projects.

While the app itself was founded in 2016, the partnership between it and the Comox Valley officially launched on June 22, just in time for the summer.

Work on the Cumberland portion began nearly a year ago, just as the museum was beginning to plan for its closure during extensive renovations. Shipp said the app offered a platform to share historical knowledge and help build capacity rather than have the museum do all of the work on its own.

“We want to have people come to Cumberland, but we also do have a growing population in our village, and (the app) can be used for visitors and locals alike,” she added.

Andrew Farris, CEO of On This Spot and a University of Victoria grad said the idea to create the app came to him when he spent some time travelling after university.

“I’ve always been super passionate about history and when I was in Nagasaki, Japan, I saw historic photos from the day after the atomic bomb. I saw how then-and-now photos were really helping people who are not really into history engage.”

When he spent time on Juno Beach in Normandy, he developed the idea for the app. It is available in more than 50 cities in eight provinces, including Vancouver, Victoria, Ucluelet, Nanaimo and Esquimalt.

Farris noted he is aiming to add walking tours for Cumberland to complement the app, allowing users to have ‘deep dives’ in history.

For more information on the project, visit

Erin Haluschak

About the Author: Erin Haluschak

Erin Haluschak is a journalist with the Comox Valley Record since 2008. She is also the editor of Trio Magazine...
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