Public & Digital history

City Builders: A History of Immigrant Construction Workers in Postwar Toronto

This project was dedicated to preserving, recording, examining, and divulging the history of metropolitan Toronto’s immigrant construction workers and their labour organization after the Second World War. Its outputs included a travelling multimedia exhibition; a website packed with digital humanities content, including interactive maps, timelines, videos, audio recordings, photos, and biographies; an oral history series with twenty-eight short videos featuring retired construction workers, labour organizers, and community advocates; and a four-part documentary. I completed this project during my stay at York University’s Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies in 2017-19, funded by the Labourers International Union of North America Local 183 (main funder) and the Mariano A. Elia Chair in Italian-Canadian Studies. In 2019, the City Builders was one of the recipients of the Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario’s Heritage Award for Excellence in Conservation. See the City Builders website for more: toronto-city-builders.org

The Portuguese Canadian History Project

The Portuguese Canadian History Project (PCHP) is a non-profit, community outreach organization, founded in 2008 by myself and Dr. Susana Miranda, and later joined by Dr. Raphael Costa and Dr. Emanuel da Silva. Since 2009, the PCHP has worked closely with the Clara Thomas Archives and Special Collections (CTASC) at York University Libraries, where we have facilitated the donation of ten archival records collections. Our main objectives are to 1) preserve the collective memory of Portuguese immigrants and their descendants in Canada, and 2) democratize access to historical knowledge, both in its consumption and its production. Visit the PCHP’s website to find more information about our mission, principles, past and present activities. Some of the initiatives that I have done with the PCHP are listed below.

“Hora dos Portugueses” on RTPi/ RTP1 / RDP

Between 2015 and 2017 I co-produced the Canadian content of the daily show “Hora dos Portugueses” on Portugal’s international public television and radio broadcaster RTPi/ RDPi, which highlights the Portuguese diaspora around the world. Our segments showcased the work, initiatives, achievements, challenges, and various experiences of both high-profile and less-known Portuguese-Canadian individuals and organizations. Some of our interviewees included Charles Sousa (Ontario Minister of Finance), Carlos Leitão (Quebec Minister of Finance), Peter Fonseca (Member of Parliament), Jerry Dias (labour leader), Ana Paula Lopes (entrepreneur), Sid & Alex Seixeiro (sports commentators), Melissa Grelo (TV hostess), Paulino Nunes (actor), Mike Rita (comedian), Anthony de Sa (author), George Pimentel (photographer), Sandy Miranda (musician), Matthew Tavares (musician), Lucas Silveira (musician), Alexandre Amâncio (video game designer), Dale Brazão (investigative journalist), Nuno Cristo (musician, instrument maker), Joe Manteiga (boxing trainer), Manuela Marujo (professor), Maria João Dodman (professor), Mário Monteiro (biochemist), and many others. For the complete listing of our episodes (in Portuguese and English) see here.

The Portuguese in Toronto, 1953-2013

In 2012, the Consulate-General of Portugal in Toronto invited the PCHP to curate a photo exhibition on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of Portuguese mass migration to Canada. We were given financial and logistic support from the Secretary of State of Portuguese Communities, the Camões Institute, and various community organizations in the city. The exhibit was held at City Hall on May 13, 2013, to a crowd of about 150 people, among which were numerous Canadian and Portuguese dignitaries, including some of the surviving members of the 1953 migrant cohort. This traveling exhibit has since been on display in multiple other venues and events, including the Dundas West Festival; Archbishop Romero Secondary School; Almada Negreiros Gallery, Consulate General of Portugal in Toronto; Azorean House of Ontario; IC Savings – Little Portugal; Scott Library, York University; Victoria College, University of Toronto; and Museum Strathroy-Caradoc. When not on the road, this exhibition is on permanent display at the Gallery of the Portuguese Pioneers.

In 2016, I completed a digital companion for this exhibition with the help of two students from Prof. Jennifer Bonnell’s HIST4840 Public History course. You can access this interactive multimedia feature here.

Walking tour Portuguese Toronto: Early Decades

Starting in June 2014, the PCHP has offered a walking tour about the early history of the Portuguese community in Toronto, focusing on its places of living, work, play, commerce, and worship in Kensington Market and Dundas Street West. In the past, the tour has coincided with Ontario’s Portuguese Heritage Month, Toronto’s Portugal Day celebrations, and the Dundas West Fest, which take place around June 10. I have also created a digital companion that participants can access on their mobile devices, where they can find photos and audio recordings related to the locations and themes discussed at each stop. Here are some photos of our past walks: 2014, 2015.

Comunidade newspaper, 1975-1979

Launched in October 2011, the first online exhibit on the PCHP’s website is dedicated to the Portuguese-language newspaper Comunidade. It showcases the archival collection donated by Domingos Marques – one of Comunidade‘s founders, owners, and directors – to the CTASC, the first to be transferred by the PCHP. This online exhibit is divided into two parts: the first is built around the records and commentary of Domingos Marques; and the second is a series of video clips of oral history interviews with Domingos Marques and Gilberto Prioste. You can find this online exhibition here.

St. Christopher House: a Neighbourhood History

In 2012, St. Christopher House (present-day West Neighbourhood House) celebrated its 100th anniversary with various events throughout the year. To kick-off the celebrations, the Century Committee decided to organize a public history exhibit on March 2-3, which I curated. This was a wonderful event that drew many community members, including past and present St. Chris’ participants and staff. After this, the Toronto City Archives invited us to set up our exhibit in their atrium, where it stayed between November 2012 – April 2013. Some of the exhibits’ materials remain on display at West Neighbourhood House locations. I have since created a digital version of the exhibit on the PCHP’s website. You can find it here.

History Matters lecture series

History Matters was a free public lecture series created in 2010 by then York University doctoral student Lisa Rumiel, in collaboration with Miriam Scribner of  Toronto Public Library (TPL) and ActiveHistory.ca. In 2012 I joined the curatorial team alongside Dr. Jay Young. This lecture series offered professional historians and graduate students the opportunity to present their research to broader audiences outside the university walls. All History Matters’ lectures are available as podcasts here.

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