Staircase at the Aga Khan Museum, Toronto (Photo: Domnic Santiago)

The history of Doors Open Ontario

The first Doors Open Day (La Journée Portes Ouvertes) took place in France in 1984. The idea soon spread to neighbouring countries, including the Netherlands, Sweden, the Republic of Ireland, Belgium and Scotland. In 1991, these events were united as European Heritage Days at the initiative of the Council of Europe. In 2003, all 50 signatory states of the European Cultural Convention participated in European Heritage Days.

In 2000, the City of Toronto launched the first Doors Open event in North America. In 2002, the Ontario Heritage Trust launched Doors Open Ontario, the first provincewide event of its kind in Canada, attracting visitors to unique heritage sites and cultural tourism experiences. The Doors Open concept continues to spread across North America with events now being held in Newfoundland, Alberta, Massachusetts, Western New York State, New York City and Denver. (Visit these web links to Doors Open events in other countries.)

In 2020, however, with the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to change the way we delivered the program – with the aim of continuing to engage visitors across Ontario, and beyond, by offering new experiences. With Digital Doors Open – a year-round program – we have provided unique access to hundreds of sites, creating digital experiences that offer everything from virtual tours and videos about the sites to online games, activities, searchable collections and additional resources. This way, you can still have that Doors Open experience, but with a digital twist, as you experience sites from anywhere in the province from the comfort of home, and even explore sites that are impossible to visit in-person.

Since the program was launched in 2002, over 8.3 million visits have been made to heritage sites participating in this exciting initiative. Doors Open Ontario, considered a cultural phenomenon, will continue in 2024 with communities participating across the province.