Tuesday 6 March 2012

Immigrants share stories of violence

Concordia Oral History project relates 500 stories of human rights violations

We Are Here, the final exhibition of the project Life Stories of Montrealers Displaced by War, Genocide, and Other Human Rights Violations, opens March 8, 2012. The project, based at Concordia’s Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling, is presented in collaboration with the Centre d’histoire de Montréal, which is hosting the display.

Five years in the making, We Are Here represents an extraordinary university-community research alliance to record the personal stories of 500 Montrealers. According to Steven High, Concordia Canada Research Chair in Public History and the project’s principal investigator, more than 300 academic researchers, community members, students, artists and interns participated in creating the work.

“Many of these project creators are persons displaced by violence, while others are the children of persons displaced by violence,” High says. “Almost all of them live here in Montreal.”

Project team members interviewed their parents and grandparents, as well as members of their own or other communities. Drawings, toys and other significant artifacts were gathered. The recordings were posted online and then used for short films, websites, blogs, theatre pieces and artistic performances, educational programs for students of all levels, conferences, publications, and exhibitions.

“We hope that sharing these life stories will catalyze critical thought and dialogue,” High says. “The stories collected are our stories.”

The Concordia Oral History Research Laboratory combines digital media and oral history to open up new, non-linear ways to access, analyze and communicate life stories. The Concordia Digital History Lab uses new media to share the task of historical research and interpretation with online audiences worldwide, which includes researchers, students, as well as the general public.

For Eve-Lyne Cayouette Ashby, project coordinator and the exhibition’s curator, Montreal Life Stories is more than a research project.  It has been a way “to put a face on history with a capital H,” she says. “To understand that today’s Montreal is inhabited by people of diverse origins, whose roots extend throughout the globe; to understand that each person’s story is that of all of us.”

The mission of the Centre d’histoire de Montréal as a municipal museum is “to transmit a better understanding of Montreal and of its cultural diversity … through its participative approach.” The museum collects stories and objects to convey how the city has been created and defined by its citizens. 

“The exhibition could not find a more appropriate place than our museum and our programs,” says Jean-François Leclerc, director of the Centre d’histoire de Montréal.
“For us, this exhibition is another way of sending these words of welcome to old and new Montrealers: ‘You are part of history!’”

We Are Here runs from March 8 to April 14, 2012, at the Centre d’histoire de Montréal (335 Place D’Youville, near the Square-Victoria metro station) in Old Montreal.

Related links:

•    Concordia University Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling
•    Read more about other related events     
•    Centre d’histoire de Montreal

Originally published on Concordia NOW.

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