Doors Open London

This weekend, London is opening its doors — virtually — for the 20th annual Doors Open London.

Doors Open London is the city’s largest collective celebration of history, heritage and culture, with dozens of organizations participating each year. First held in the Forest City in 2002, Doors Open London is one of the longest-running Doors Open programs in Ontario.

The 2021 edition of Doors Open London will be held virtually this Saturday, September 18 and Sunday, September 19. It promises to be a fun-filled weekend with 30 sites to explore with dozens and dozens of online activities, videos, tours, workshops, and exhibits for you to enjoy. 

It’s hard to choose with so many great options, but here are ten sites you won’t want to miss!

London Muslim Mosque

Did you know that London is home to the oldest mosque in Ontario and the oldest operating mosque in Canada? Discover even more about the community-focused London Muslim Mosque during Digital Doors Open London!

From the efforts beginning in the 1950s to the doors opening in 1964, the London Muslim Mosque has been serving a growing and flourishing community for over 50 years. During Digital Doors Open London weekend, you’ll have the chance to learn more about both the mosque and Islamic culture through virtual lectures, storytelling, and a digital tour of the mosque.

Learn more about LMM’s Doors Open programming here.

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Miles of Life

As part of Digital Doors Open, the AlvegoRoot Theatre ensemble will be presenting Miles of Life: Five Lives Lived in London. The five short films tell the stories about people and places important to the cultural memory, life and history of London spanning over 100 years, written and directed by Adam Corrigan Holowitz. 

Travel back in time from your screen! Meet Josiah Blackburn at the Marienbad Restaurant and hear the story of how the London Free Press began. Then, in the Peel House at Fanshawe Pioneer Village, sculptor Mildred Peel tells about her art career as she navigates sexism and the shadow of her younger, more famous brother. Poet Arthur Stringer, from the porch of his childhood home, recounts his lifelong infatuation with the ideal of romance. At the former Western Counties Health and Occupational Centre, you will hear the story of the veterans who lived there as they recovered from the Second World War. The journey concludes at the Hyland Cinema, where the audience will meet a woman who shares how the movies played an important role in her teenage years.

Learn more about the films here.

London City Hall

London’s City Hall is celebrating a big anniversary this year — fifty years since the tower at the corner of Wellington and Dufferin opened. Oh, City Hall, you don’t look a day over 30! 

a black and white photo of people sitting in chairs with their backs to the camera, looking at a large building.
The grand opening celebration for London’s City Hall in 1971. Photo courtesy of the City of London.

On September 22, 1971, a grand celebration marked the opening of London’s new City Hall. A prominent landmark in London’s downtown core for five decades, City Hall is the symbolic centre of the community’s civic government and administration. This Doors Open London weekend, Londoners are invited to learn more about the City Hall’s fascinating history, beautiful architecture, and the intriguing people, events, and stories associated with this prominent building through a virtual guided tour.

Learn more about City Hall’s Doors Open programming here.

Rising Moon Belly Dance

Have you ever wanted to try out belly dancing or just learn more about the art? Now’s your chance! Discover the history of belly dance – including the different styles, costumes and music that make it an ancient and beautiful art! 

During Digital Doors Open London, Rising Moon Belly Dance is hosting two virtual workshops (pre-registration required). Saturday’s workshop will feature an introduction to the history of belly dance in the Middle East and North America, complemented by performances of different styles while Sunday’s workshop will focus on an introduction to belly dance. 

Learn more about Rising Moon Belly Dance’s Doors Open workshops here.

Canada Life 

Canada Life, formerly London Life, has been a mainstay in the Forest City for almost 150 years! And as the founding sponsor of Doors Open London, Canada Life is honoured to celebrate the 20th year of sharing history, culture, and heritage across the city. 

a black and white image of men in top hats standing in front of an open door
The grand opening of the London Life building in 1928. Photo courtesy of Canada Life.

Have you wondered what the inside of the gorgeous London Life building on Dufferin Ave looks like? Wonder no more! During Digital Doors Open London, take a virtual tour of their London head office, showcasing a few special places, stories, artwork, and artifacts along the way. 

Learn more about Canada Life’s Doors Open programming here.

The Brain and Mind Institute

Ready to have your mind blown? Okay, well, not quite, but you won’t want to miss Western University’s Brain and Mind Institute during Digital Doors Open London! The Brain and Mind Institute is recognized as one of the world’s leading research institutes in cognitive neuroscience. Researchers there aim to understand how the brain allows us to make sense of what we see and hear, remember the past and plan for the future, communicate our thoughts to others, choose goals, plan actions and carry those actions out. Powerful imaging tools allow researchers to observe the human brain at work. 

A research building made of glass and concrete featured for Doors Open London
The Brain and Mind Institute is located in the Western Interdisciplinary Research Building. Photo courtesy of Western University.

For the Doors Open London weekend, learn about the exciting discoveries that are being made about the brain! BMI will offer a live virtual demo on Saturday, September 18 at 1 p.m. through Zoom and a virtual tour of their research facilities. And be sure to check out their YouTube playlist to learn more about the institute and its mind-boggling research!

Learn more about the BMI’s Doors Open activties here.

The Secrets of Radar Museum

Could you keep a secret for 50 years? We certainly couldn’t! But that’s what the men and women who served in radar during World War II did just that. They took their oath of secrecy to heart, keeping the truth from family and friends, and many taking their service history to the grave before the Official Secrets Act expired in 1991. The Secrets of Radar Museum, located on London airport grounds,  tells these brave Canadians’ stories. 

During the Doors Open London weekend, the museum will present a virtual tour that features the development of radar technology from 1939 to 2021. You will learn how Canadian men and women veterans defended Canada during the Second World War and the Cold War. They will also present the spin-off technologies that we use in our everyday lives.  Plus, you can check out their newest online exhibit: Top Secret War. 

Learn more secrets from the Secrets of Radar Museum here.

TAP Centre for Creativity

Get inspired with TAP! The TAP Centre (formerly The Arts Project) is London’s creative hub with support for the artistic community through opportunities to create, experiment, network and share their work. 

A yellow/orange bicycle drawn/painted on a blue background. Doors Open
Greg Curnoe, Mariposa 10 Speed No. 2, 1973. Courtesy of the Art Canada Institute.

For Digital Doors Open London, you can take a behind-the-scenes look at the early work of London artist Greg Curnoe, led by Brian Lambert, the McIntosh Gallery’s Collection Manager. Lambert will share a sneak-peek of this collection of early Curnoe works from the 1950s and early 1960s. This collection includes many works on paper from influential Canadian artists’ studies at OCAD University and Bealart, and collectively provides a valuable record of Curnoe’s influences and artistic development. In addition, Doors Open attendees can enjoy the TAP Centre’s online gallery and special online exhibits (including animations, paintings, art installations and photography).

Learn more about TAP’s Doors Open programming here.

Brick Street Cemetery

Brick Street Cemetery, located on Commissioners Road West, has undergone significant restoration since it first participated in Doors Open London 13 years ago. Dating back to 1813, this over 200-year-old cemetery tells a winding tale of the lives of some of the first settlers in the region. 

During Doors Open London, learn about one of London’s oldest settler cemeteries and its unique history within a national and local context through a video presentation. You will meet some of the volunteers who work to preserve its stones and research its dead, and examine restoration techniques as well as ground-penetrating radar. In addition, you can enjoy a series of short theatrical presentations by local actors portraying events in the lives of some of the interesting people buried at Brick Street Cemetery.

Learn more about Brick Street Cemetery’s Doors Open plans here.

And last, but certainly not least, 

LondonFuse’s Neighbourhood Histories Audio Tours 

We might be a little biased, but you don’t want to miss out on our audio tours created especially for Digital Doors Open London! Building off of our popular London Neighbourhood Histories article series, we’ve adapted the stories of five Forest City neighbourhoods  — Old East Village, Woodfield, Hamilton Road, Old North and Midtown — into a digital audiovisual experience for Londoners to enjoy during Doors Open London. 

DoorsOpen London map
The map for LondonFuse’s Old North audio tour for Doors Open London.

Come learn about some of the rich, layered heritage of many of London’s neighbourhoods, the diverse individuals who have lived within them, and the events that have impacted their development. Participants can enjoy these tours from home and be transported back in time through historic images accompanying the audio tours. Or, to bring it to life, Londoners can download the audio and listen as they walk through the neighbourhoods for some socially distanced heritage fun!

Learn more about LondonFuse’s audio tours here.

There’s so much going on for Digital Doors Open London!

Be sure to plan ahead so you don’t miss out on these incredible virtual opportunities to find the hidden gems in your city. 

Find more information about the 20th annual Doors Open London weekend on the London Heritage Council’s website.

This post has been powered by the London Heritage Council. The London Heritage Council gives a voice to London’s past, promoting heritage projects and advocating for London, Ontario’s cultural sector.

Feature image by Nicole Borland. 

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