Cultural Mapping Project

St. Thomas - It's Our Culture


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The Cultural Mapping Website!

St. Thomas Cultural Map Logo

What is Cultural Mapping?
Cultural Mapping and the Community Strategic Plan
The City’s Cultural Mapping Project
St. Thomas’ Cultural Economy

Sustaining the Cultural Map

What is Cultural Mapping? 

Cultural mapping is recognized as an essential planning and economic development tool in municipalities across Canada and internationally. Cultural mapping is defined as:

A systematic approach to identifying, recording, classifying and analyzing a community’s cultural resources.

The use of cultural mapping falls into three categories:

  • Cultural Mapping to Inform Planning – Identifying and mapping cultural assets strengthens the base of information that can be used to inform future planning and decision-making in any municipality (e.g. cultural planning and development, land use planning, economic development and tourism, among others).

  • Cultural Mapping to Increase Community Awareness – Cultural mapping helps build consolidated databases of assets that in turn can be used to support marketing and promotion of these assets to both residents and visitors/tourists.

  • Cultural Mapping to Support Culture Sector Development – The cultural sector in most communities tends to be very disconnected in the distinctions drawn between different types of cultural activity (e.g., arts, heritage, libraries, and cultural businesses). Building a stronger base of information will strengthen the networks and collaboration across a wide range of cultural groups and activities.

Cultural Mapping and the Community Strategic Plan

The City of St. Thomas completed a Community Strategic Plan that identified culture, heritage, natural environment, natural heritage, and dedicated community groups as critical strengths and opportunities contributing to St. Thomas’ quality of life and overall community well-being.

Part of the Community Strategic Plan involved the creation of objectives and actions to support strategic development of the City. Two of these objectives speak to the important role of cultural development:

  • Promotion of the arts and culture programs and services
  • Creating pride and promoting the history and heritage of the City

To that end the Strategic Plan suggested that the City pursue the development of a Cultural Plan to include heritage, music, art, etc. aimed at promoting more cohesive and coordinated cultural services and cultural development strategies in St. Thomas. Before the City undertakes a cultural planning process it is important to identify and understand the cultural assets that will form the foundation for the Community Cultural Plan. The first step in identifying these cultural assets was accomplished through development of the interactive cultural map.

The City's Cultural Mapping Project

Step 1 – Project Start-up

- The City, with funding support from the Province of Ontario, initiated a Cultural Mapping Project
- The City retained AuthentiCity: A Division of Millier Dickinson Blais Inc. as the project consultant
- A cross-departmental Technical Steering Committee was established to provide advice and input to the development of the City’s local data  resources    

Step 2 – Establishing the Project Framework

-  A tailored Cultural Resource Framework was established to reflect the cultural assets in the City of St. Thomas - Figure 1

St. Thomas Cultural Resource Framework

diagram of Cultural Resource Framework

Step 3 - Data Collection

- Data was collected in the following ways

  • use of infoCanada
  • Google internet searches
  • City databases
  • Community Survey which was distributed to local businesses throughout the City and online

Step 4 – Community Engagement

- A Community Forum was held at the Memorial Arena in St. Thomas where the public was invited to participate in a Community Forum workshop on Cultural Asset Mapping                
- Various media was used to obtain community input:

  • the project page on the City website
  • City’s Facebook page
  • Email broadcasts from the consultant as well as the Chamber of Commerce
  • Media Releases
  • Community Survey
  • Radio broadcasts
  • advertisements in the St. Thomas Times Journal and The Weekly News
  • posters distributed to public locations across the City

Step 5 - Polishing the Cultural Resource Data

- Using all the information obtained through advertising and the Community Forum, City staff and members of the Technical Steering Committee reviewed the data and made additions and corrections as necessary
-  A second review of the data was undertaken to regroup the data, keeping the original Cultural Framework categories, but adding new themes to reflect the cultural assets unique to the St. Thomas community
- Figure 2 illustrates the St. Thomas Cultural Map Public Interface, showing the themes selected and the organization of the subcategories under each theme

St. Thomas Cultural Map Public Interface

Step 6 - The Interactive Map

-  An interactive map was created to display the data collected over the course of the project
-  The map serves as a gateway for organizations, businesses, community groups and the public to easily identify and explore the City’s assets
-  The assets on the map are organized based on a theme and are represented by a tear drop symbol, which is colour coded based on the St. Thomas Cultural Framework categories and subcategories
-  Some of the tools developed for users of the map include, layers, a keyword search, information window, annotation and drawing tools, Google street view, and social media sharing

Step 7 - Workshop and Final Report

  • Workshop – Workshops were held with City Staff, Management Staff and City Council to learn more about the cultural map, how it works, and how to sustain it
  • A Final Cultural Mapping Report – The consultant completed a report titled “City of St. Thomas Cultural Asset Mapping Project.”  Access to the full report is available here.

St. Thomas’ Cultural Economy

There is growing recognition across Canada of the importance of creativity, culture and quality of place in growing local economies. Many communities are now recognizing that enhancing quality of place and creating attractive amenities can draw talented people, which in turn attract business investment. Cultural resources and experiences also attract visitors and help grow tourism, an increasingly important component of economic development strategies in all communities.

Sustaining the Cultural Map

The cliché is that it is relatively easy to develop databases, but it is much harder maintaining and updating them. The key to maintaining robust up-to-date databases is to make it possible for multiple individuals and stakeholders to update information. Updating should be possible at three levels.

  • Updating by municipal staff – staff can add new listings, edit or delete existing listings; staff from different departments will have strong expertise in various categories of cultural resources so this task of editing and adding data should be divided among these staff people and areas of expertise.
  • Updating by important community partners – ‘umbrella groups’ representing different categories / disciplines of cultural resources (e.g., historical societies for cultural heritage, Chambers of Commerce for creative cultural enterprises, etc.) can be recruited to periodically review existing data in their area of expertise.
  • Updating by individual organizations already captured in the database – specific cultural groups or organizations can be given an opportunity to submit updates to their current listing either by email or by the design of a simple web-based Feedback Tool.
  • Contributions of new resources – because ‘cultural mapping is never done’ there must be tools and arrangements put in place to enable individuals to propose new listings subject to approval by the municipality prior to public posting of the asset.
 Ontario government logo with trillium
 Funding provided by the Government of Ontario