New smartphone app to offer 'then and now' peek into Nanaimo's history

By Dominic Abassi
May 24, 2017 - 5:24pm Updated: May 25, 2017 - 1:03am

A then and now look at Nanaimo's Commercial St.Submitted

NANAIMO — Have you ever wondered what Nanaimo's harbour looked like during the mining boom or what kind of stores lined Commercial St. in the early 1900's?

A new app will give people a glimpse back in time, connecting the history of the harbour city with modern technology. Developers of the smartphone app On This Spot are creating content focused on Nanaimo's maritime and mining history, pioneer life and the city in the 1950's.

Users of the free app can view roughly 400 historic pictures overlaid onto the current landscape through their phone's camera. There will also be a guided walking tour with about 15 stops featuring pictures and a write up on the history of that location.

On This Spot founder Andrew Farris said the "then and now" pictures and the app's interactive camera create a unique storytelling experience that allows people to superimpose themselves into the pictures and share them on social media. He said the level of depth in the written information will be quite surprising as well.

The roughly $30,000 project is being funded by the Nanaimo Hospitality Association (NHA) and Tourism Nanaimo. NHA president Dan Brady told NanaimoNewsNOW digital tools like this are critical to keep pace in the tourism industry.

"There's still a little need for having the brochure, people still want to have that map in their lap, but this day and age you have to be tied in digitally in order to capture that market," Brady said.

"It just seems like people are always wanting to reconnect with what was there in the past, or 'I wonder what this used to be.' This gives you a great ability to see what used to be there."

Brady said they keep hearing about the need to let tourists know why locals love living here and apps like this will help highlight the amazing cultural and historical background of Nanaimo.

The historic walking tour app, which should be ready in time for Canada Day, isn't the only technology set to be rolled out for Nanaimo's tourism industry. Brady said another app will be ready in the coming weeks which will serve as an information hub for people coming to town for festivals or events.

"A few years ago we did a big workshop and it was all about how do we develop the destination of Nanaimo...Some of the low hanging fruit was to go after increasing festivals, events and sports tourism," Brady said.

The festivals and events app will show people everything from field and venue locations to gas stations and hotels. It will also include other tourism features like local trails and other favourite spots.

That coincides with a new website set to launch, featuring similar information. Brady said on the back-end of that website will be information for local groups or people who may be considering putting on an event or festival but aren't sure where to start.

"If you want to discover the real Nanaimo, it will be on that app and website."


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On Twitter: @domabassi

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