'Heritage Minute Nerds' Travel Across Canada

Bruce Parkinson, Open Jaw

Jim Ellwood and Rebecca Bartlett

A couple who calls themselves “Heritage Minute nerds” are mid-way through a cross-Canada tour to see locations connected to the famous 60-second vignettes.

Librarian Rebecca Bartlett and software designer Jim Ellwood started the journey from their home in Ottawa about a year and a half ago. The idea was rooted in nostalgia.

“We both grew up watching them on TV so they’re absolutely part of our childhood,” Ellwood told CTV News. “And I’m like, how hard would it be to go to a place for each and every minute?”

Since 1991, 86 of the minute-long segments have been produced. The videos shine a spotlight on notable figures and stories of Canadian history that aren’t always taught in school.

Philanthropist Charles Bronfman spearheaded the project after a national survey in 1986 found that almost one in four Canadians couldn’t identify a Canadian event or achievement that made them feel proud.

The segments, which are now produced by Historica Canada, include a profile of Terry Fox, the origins of Winnie the Pooh and the birth of basketball. Most recently, gay rights activist Jim Egan was honoured with his own Heritage Minute.

So far, Bartlett and Ellwood have made a serious dent in the list. L'Anse aux Meadows on the northern tip of Newfoundland – home to an 11th-century Viking settlement – was a major highlight.

On the Pacific coast, they’ve trekked through the coastal wilderness that inspired Emily Carr’s lush landscapes.

In Edmonton, the couple visited the home of women’s rights activist Emily Murphy, who led a successful campaign to have women designated as “persons” by British law.

Much of the trek has been done by car, and the couple says it hasn’t always been easy.

“This has been wonderful. It’s an excellent way to see Canada. But it’s hard work driving across Canada,” Ellwood said.

They plan to wrap their journey back home in Ottawa in September with a party.

Bruce Parkinson

Bruce Parkinson Editor-in-Chief

An observer and analyst of the Canadian and international travel industries for over 25 years, Bruce uses the pre-dawn hours to prepare a daily news and information package to keep industry members up to date.

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