Public & digital history


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

The City Builders project is dedicated to preserving, recording, examining, and divulging the history of Metro Toronto’s immigrant construction workers and their labour organization after the Second World War. Its outputs include a travelling multimedia exhibition with 92 QR code-activated digital labels; a website packed with digital content, including interactive maps, timelines, videos, audio recordings, photos, and biographies; an oral history series with 28 short videos featuring retired construction workers, labour organizers, and community advciates; and a four-part documentary. This project was based at the Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies at York University, and funded by primarily by LIUNA Local 183. See the City Builders website for more:

The Portuguese Canadian History Project | Projeto de História Luso Canadiana

The Portuguese Canadian History Project (PCHP) is a non-profit, community outreach organization, founded in 2008 by Gilberto Fernandes and Susana Miranda, and later joined by Raphael Costa and Emanuel da Silva. Since 2009, the PCHP has worked very closely with the Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections (CTASC) at York University Libraries, where we have facilitated the acquisition of nine archival donations. Our main objectives are to:

1. Preserve the collective memory of Portuguese immigrants and their descendants in Canada.
2. Democratize access to historical knowledge, both in its consumption and its production.

Much of my public history work is tied to my role as the lead director of the PCHP. Instead of detailing it here, I invite you to visit the PCHP’s website, where you can 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

Since November 2015, I have partnered with Pedro Rodrigues (RoughCut Audiovisual) to produce content for the daily show “Hora dos Portugueses,” on Portugal’s international public television and radio broadcaster RTP/ RDP. The show, which is now on its third season (2017), is dedicated to highlighting the Portuguese diaspora around the world. Our segments have showcased the more modern aspects of Portuguese-Canadian culture, focusing primarily, though not exclusively, on the Canadian-born or -raised generation, featuring individuals who are doing interesting work both at the heart and on the fringes of the Portuguese and Canadian communities. Some of our past interviewees include Peter Fonseca (politician), 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), Paul Azevedo (DJ & entrepreneur), 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, many others. For the complete listing of our more than 65 episodes (in Portuguese and English) see “Hora dos Portugueses.”

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 other community organizations in Toronto. The exhibit was inaugurated at Toronto’s City Hall on May 13, 2013, to a crowd of about 150 people, among which were numerous Canadian and Portuguese dignitaries, along with some of the surviving members of the 1953 migrant cohort. This traveling exhibit has since been on display in other venues and events, including the Dundas West Festival (2013, 2014, 2015); 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, using the free smartphone application izi.TRAVEL, with the help of two students from Prof. Jennifer Bonnell’s HIST4840 Public History course. This interactive multimedia feature was first added to the exhibition for the 2016 Dundas West Fest. You can access it here. In March 2017, this digital companion became a feature of Myseum of Toronto’s digital platform.

Walking tour Portuguese Toronto: Early Decades

Since June 2014, the PCHP has partnered with Heritage Toronto in offering a tour of Portuguese immigration history in the city, exploring that community’s places of work, play, commerce, and worship. The tour has coincided with Ontario’s Portuguese Heritage Month, Toronto’s Portugal Day celebrations, and the Dundas West Fest, where the PCHP has showcased its photo exhibit “The Portuguese in Toronto, 1953-2013”. We prepared an online companion for this walk, which participants are able to access through their mobile devices, and look at photos related to the locations and themes discussed at each stop. Photos: 2014, 2015. In March 2017, this digital companion became a feature of Myseum of Toronto’s digital platform. Our next walk is scheduled for June 3, 10am. See our page at Jane’s Walks for more.

Comunidade newspaper, 1975-1979 (2011)

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. For more information on this exhibit click the title above.

St. Christopher House: a Neighbourhood History (2011-2012)

In 2012, St. Christopher House celebrated its 100th anniversary with a number of events throughout the year. To kick-off the celebrations, the Century Committee decided to organize a public history exhibit on March 2-3, curated by myself, at the time a Board Member at St. Chris. This was a wonderful community event that attracted many past and present St. Chris’ participants and staff, as well as Toronto media and politicians. 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 continue to be on display at St. Chris locations, and showcased at its various public events. I also created a digital version of the exhibit with additional content on the PCHP’s website. For more information on this exhibit click the title above.

History Matters lecture series

History Matters is a free public lecture series created in 2010 by then York University doctoral student Lisa Rumiel and Miriam Scribner of  Toronto Public Library (TPL). Today, the series is organized by the TPL (Miriam Scribner), (Jay Young), Heritage Toronto, and myself. This lecture series offers professional historians and graduate students the opportunity to present their research to broader audiences outside the university walls, and interact directly with local communities. Since joining the History Matters team in 2012, I have co-curated series dedicated to the themes of Canada’s immigration, ethnicity, and citizenship, in January-April, 2013; aboriginal issues in the twentieth century, in February-April, 2014; First World War, in October-November, 2014; and sports history, in April-May, 2015. Previous History Matters’ lectures are available as podcasts here.

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