Post-Industrial Montreal

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This oral history and new media research project, "From Balconville to Condoville: The Politics of Urban Change in Post-Industrial Montreal,"  examines urban change in Montreal's Saint-Henri, Côte-Saint-Paul, and Point-Saint-Charles districts since 1945, as well as the transformation of the Lachine Canal itself. The area, now part of the Sud-Ouest borough, was once evocatively described as the "City Below the Hill" by late 19th century urban reformers. Working-class and immigrant neighbourhoods coalesced around the industrial district that emerged along a five mile stretch of Montreal's Lachine Canal. One 1868 observer wrote that "'A walk along the banks of the Lachine Canal and the Saint-Gabriel Locks, will convey to the observer a forcible impression of the extent and importance of the factory interests of the City." A similar walk today would leave a very different impression.

Going Public Project

Project Website:

Liz Miller, Ted Little & Steven High

Going Public: Oral History, New Media and the Performing Arts brings together individuals using interdisciplinary methodologies founded on the core values of collaboration, transparency and shared authority to explore the social, political, and aesthetic dimensions of contemporary international public art practice.

For us, going public means far more than exploring the potential of new technologies and finding new audiences for our research – it means redefining the research process itself. How can university-based researchers and artists collaborate effectively and use technological innovations to reach larger publics or make a deeper impact? How do we include a wider circle in the conversation? How do, and how might, oral history, new media and community-engaged arts contribute to public knowledge and to healthy and sustainable relationships, organizations, institutions, communities, schools, and neighbourhoods? How can we transform our creative and intellectual work into public scholarship? Specifically, we will build on existing and emerging connections to learn about and with innovative and ongoing interdisciplinary projects in Canada and around the world.

Sturgeon Falls Mill Closing Project

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What happens to a mill town once it loses its mill? In responding to this deceptively simple question, the Sturgeon Falls Mill Closing Project is examining place identity and attachment in the former paper mill town of Sturgeon Falls, Ontario, located twenty minutes drive west of North Bay. Sturgeon Falls was a single-industry town like many others. And like many other towns scattered across the provincial northlands of Canada it has had to re-invent itself in the face of catastrophic job loss. Weyerhaeuser’s decision to close the Sturgeon Falls mill in 2002, after a century of production, is therefore part of a far larger story related to the economic crisis facing forestry-dependent towns across Canada.

Stories Matter Oral History Database Software

Project Website:

In transcribing our interviews, we lose the orality almost immediately thus shoring the narratives of much of their meaning. Stories Matter is a software created by the Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling. It offers oral historians an alternative to transcription. Stories matter allows us to clip, index and export audio and video recordings – and so it represents a real alternative to transcription. It is also free and can be downloaded online. New features of the latest version allow for faster upload speeds, better project management options and an improved user interface.

Clock-Based Keyphrase Map - A Shared Visual Analytical Tool for Large-Scale Analysis of Audio-Video Interviews

Dr. Lu Xiao , Assistant Professor of Information and Media Studies, Yan Lu, Graduate Student University of Western Ontario , and Steven High.

The Clock-Based Keyphrase Map (CKM) - A Shared Visual Analytical Tool for Large-Scale Analysis of Audio-Video Interviews project is combining text-mining and visualization techniques to develop a new analytical tool that will facilitate big data analysis of audio and video recorded interviews within the Stories Matter database environment. The UWO-based team has developed a prototype that identifies important themes in an oral history collection, or data-set, and a clock-based visualization to present them in a temporal order.

CKM also enables researchers and other users to further analyze the oral history collections and share their analysis with one another.  The team, funded as part of a wider Digging into Data program, is working closely with COHDS on the development of this exciting new visualization tool.


Project Website: 

Directed by Dr. Jason Camlot

A team of literary scholars, designers and librarians based at Concordia University in Montreal is engaged in a four-year federally-funded SSHRC IG project: “SpokenWeb: Developing a Comprehensive Web-Based Digital Spoken Word Archive for Literary Research.” Using digitized live recordings of a Montreal poetry reading series from 1966-1974 featuring performances by major North American poets, among them Beat poets, Black Mountain poets and members of TISH, a Canadian poetry collective, our team is investigating the features that will be the most conducive to scholarly engagement with recorded poetry recitation and performance.

We aim to create an interactive and nuanced tool that allows for deeper critical engagement with literary recordings. We hope to eventually develop SpokenWeb into a refined tool that we can share with other memory institutions who wish to make their digitized literary recordings available to scholars.

On the Move: Employment Related Geographical Mobility in the Canadian Context

Project Website:

Directed by Dr. Barbara Neis (Memorial University)


The On the Move: Employment-Related Geographical Mobility in the Canadian Context Partnership is seeking to learn more about how this employment-related geographical mobility affects employers, workers and their families and home and host communities. It is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Research and Development Corporation of Newfoundland and Labrador, Memorial University of Newfoundland (including the SafetyNet Centre for Occupational Health and Safety Research), the Atlantic Health Promotion Research Center at Dalhousie University and numerous other university community partners in Canada and elsewhere.

Constructions identitaires et territorialités des jeunes des quartiers populaires et d'immigration : une comparaison entre Montréal et la banlieue parisienne


Directed by Dr. Julie-Anne Boudreau 

INRS - Urbanisation, culture et société


Youth Constructions of Identity and Territoriality in Working-class and Immigrant Neighbourhoods("Constructions identitaires et territorialités des jenes des quartiers populaires et d'immigration : une comparaison entre Montréal et la banlieue parisienne") is a research project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (Insight Grants) led by INRS - Urbanisation Culture Société Research Centre (Montreal). COHDS and other Canadian and French partners are currently participating in this research.

A comparative survey of how youth culture is produced in working-class and immigrant neighbourhoods, this project seeks to contribute to a better understanding of popular culture as a form of identity rooted in the past and a projected future within a specific territory. Our methodology combines oral history, critical geography and sociology. We use ethnographic observations, different types of interviews, recorded or not, life stories and workshops where youth can map out and communicate their own sense of place, of their neighbourhood, of their city and beyond.

What Happened to the Franklin Expedition?

Principal Investigator - Dr. John Lutz, University of Victoria

With Peter Gossage and Steven High, Concordia University

‘What Happened to the Franklin Expedition?’ is a collaborative initiative funded by a SSHRC Partnership Development grant that brings together top scholars in education reform, digital humanities and historical research to develop an online educational archive on the mystery surrounding the loss of the Franklin Expedition somewhere in the Arctic.  Sir John Franklin sailed from Britain for the Arctic in 1845 with two ships and 128 men, none of whom survived to tell their story. Once completed, the online archive will include images, maps, charts, diagrams, videos, First People’s oral histories, and interviews with scientists and historians. The “Enduring Franklin Mystery” mobilizes the considerable energies, skills, and resources of a diverse group of partner institutions including the Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History, Nunavut Department of Education, Parks Canada, Library and Archives Canada, the History Education Network, the international Historical Thinking Project, the Critical Thinking Consortium, and the Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling. COHDS will provide expertise, support and resources for the inclusion and interpretation of oral history materials in all  phases of the project, especially for the development of learning materials that include a community-based oral history component. We are working closely with teachers and students in the Nunavut Department of Education - providing training, materials, and support.

Website - Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History

Montreal Memoryscapes –  Student-Led Public History Projects Online


The use of the map to locate working-class memories in Montreal, Quebec and Canada gives a sense of the scope and scale of lived histories within these regions. The website houses over 40 projects which can be browsed through the interactive maps.

Montreal Life Stories Project



The “Life Stories of Montrealers Displaced by War, Genocide, and other Human Rights Violations” Community-University Research Alliance ("Montreal Life Stories" CURA) was an oral history project which explored Montrealers’ experiences and memories of mass violence and displacement. From 2007 to 2012, a team of both university and community-based researchers recorded life story interviews with more than 500 Montreal residents. Academic publications, digital stories, theatre plays, films, international conferences, educational material, and museum exhibitions were created to disseminated these stories.

The full interview database is now available online (please contact us) and you can watch some video excerpts here:

Oral History at the Crossroads: Sharing Life Stories of Survival and Displacement (UBC, 2014).

How do we engage difficult histories and the experiences of new immigrants displaced by war, genocide, and human rights violations? This book reconfigures the conventional relationship between those who have sought refuge and rebuilt their lives and those who seek to record, understand, and transmit these life stories. It offers an alternative model to traditional research practices, based on the idea of shared authority, where communities become partners in the research. Drawing on the collaborative Montreal Life Stories project, this book has methodological and ethical implications for scholars of oral history, collaborative research, public history and memory studies, and refugee studies.

Remembering Mass Violence: Oral History, New Media and Performance (UTP, 2013). With Ted Little and Ry Duong.

Remembering Mass Violence breaks new ground in oral history, new media, and performance studies by exploring what is at stake when we attempt to represent war, genocide, and other violations of human rights in a variety of creative works. A model of community-university collaboration, it includes contributions from scholars in a wide range of disciplines, survivors of mass violence, and performers and artists who have created works based on these events.

This anthology is global in focus, with essays on Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and North America. At its core is a productive tension between public and private memory, a dialogue between autobiography and biography, and between individual experience and societal transformation. Remembering Mass Violence will appeal to oral historians, digital practitioners and performance-based artists around the world, as well researchers and activists involved in human rights research, migration studies, and genocide studies.

Industrial Sunset: The Making of North America’s Rust Belt (UTP, 2003).

Plant shutdowns in Canada and the United States from 1969 to 1984 led to an ongoing and ravaging industrial decline of the Great Lakes Region. Industrial Sunset offers a comparative regional analysis of the economic and cultural devastation caused by the shutdowns, and provides an insightful examination of how mill and factory workers on both sides of the border made sense of their own displacement. The history of deindustrialization rendered in cultural terms reveals the importance of community and national identifications in how North Americans responded to the problem.

Based on the plant shutdown stories told by over 130 industrial workers, and drawing on extensive archival and published sources, and songs and poetry from the time period covered, Steve High explores the central issues in the history and contemporary politics of plant closings. In so doing, this study poses new questions about group identification and solidarity in the face of often dramatic industrial transformation.

Corporate Wasteland: The Landscape and Memory of Deindustrialization (Cornell UP, 2007). With David Lewis.

Deindustrialization is not simply an economic process, but a social and cultural one as well. The rusting detritus of our industrial past—the wrecked hulks of factories, abandoned machinery too large to remove, and now-useless infrastructures—has for decades been a part of the North American landscape. In recent years, however, these modern ruins have become cultural attractions, drawing increasing numbers of adventurers, artists, and those curious about a forgotten heritage.

Through a unique blend of oral history, photographs, and interpretive essays, Corporate Wasteland investigates this fascinating terrain and the phenomenon of its loss and rediscovery. Steven High and David W. Lewis begin by exploring an emerging aesthetic they term the deindustrial sublime, explaining how the ritualized demolition of landmark industrial structures served as dramatic punctuations between changing eras. They then follow the narrative path blazed by urban spelunkers, explorers who infiltrate former industrial sites and then share accounts and images of their exploits in a vibrant online community. And to understand the ways in which geographic and emotional proximity affects how deindustrialization is remembered and represented, High and Lewis focus on Youngstown, Ohio, where residents and former steelworkers still live amid the reminders of more prosperous times.

"Corporate Wasteland is more than simply the best book on deindustrialization; it's a transnational road trip through the rust belt with everyone from Woody Guthrie to Walker Evans, Joseph Schumpeter to John Steinbeck along for the ride, pointing out the details, arguing about what happened, and digging into the rich complexity of truth itself. The transcendent photographs of rotting industrial hulks and the elegiac words of the workers sear with the intensity of the once red-hot blast furnaces, now long grown cold. This book is not a lament—it is an interrogation of the entire landscape."—Jefferson Cowie, Cornell University, author of Capital Moves: RCA's Seventy-Year Quest for Cheap Labor

"For the visitor, abandoned structures articulate in hushed eloquence how a town actually can have a broken heart? Corporate Wasteland is an exceptionally thoughtful treatment that reaffirms the malignant beauty and dignified legacy of these structures and communities."—Mayor John K. Fetterman, Braddock, Pennsylvania

Occupied St. John’s: A Social History of a City at War (MQUP, 2010).

In January 1941, the hulking twenty-one thousand ton troopship Edmund B. Alexander docked in St John's harbor, carrying a thousand American soldiers sent to join the thousands of Canadian troops protecting Newfoundland against attack by Germany. France had fallen, Great Britain was fighting for its survival, and Newfoundland - then a dominion of Britain - was North America's first line of defence. Although the German invasion never came, St John's found itself occupied by both Allied Canadian and American forces. Occupied St John's reveals the profound impact that the war years had on the city's inhabitants, thrown into a conflict where the "home front" was also the "war front." Weaving together interviews with residents who lived through the upheaval as well as archival material, this collection reconstructs the memories of people coping with extraordinary circumstances.

Lavishly illustrated and engagingly written, Occupied St John's is a remarkable look at the effects of the Second World War on the city, opening another chapter in Newfoundland's fascinating history. [visit website]
"This original and highly readable study of an international city at war greatly expands what we know about the home front during the Second World War as well as Canadian-Newfoundland relations. It will no doubt fascinate anyone interested in Newfoundland, the Second World War, Canadian veterans and their families." Suzanne Morton, Department of History, McGill University

Project Website:

Base Colonies in the Western Hemisphere (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009).

This book examines the consequences of the famous Anglo-American destroyers-for-bases deal of September 1940, which saw fifty aged US destroyers exchanged for extensive army and navy base sites in Trinidad, Bermuda and Newfoundland as well as smaller sites in British Guiana (Guyana), Antigua, St. Lucia, Jamaica and the Bahamas. In his message to Congress, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared that the deal was the “most important action in the reinforcement of our national defense that has been taken since the Louisiana Purchase.”  While the comparison seems an unlikely one today, as the 99 year leased bases did not play a prominent role in the subsequent fighting, few Americans would have disagreed with Roosevelt’s comparison in September 1940. While the diplomatic importance of the destroyers for bases deal has been widely acknowledged, few have examined the social impact of these “friendly invasions” on the base colonies themselves. The bases brought economic prosperity and social dislocation, raising nettlesome questions. Would the US impose Jim Crow as it had in the Panama Canal Zone?  Were US servicemen subject to local law outside the leased areas?  What were the effects of the US bases and how did they compare? Based on extensive archival research in the United States, Great Britain, Trinidad, Bermuda and Canada, Base Colonies in the Western Hemisphere is the first study to answer these and other questions within a cross-regional comparative framework. The result is a fascinating exploration into race, class and empire.

Base Colonies is strikingly original– the comparison of the labor and social history of a series of different British colonies as each dealt with the effects of the construction of US military bases provides a window into how empire, class and race work. Theoretically engaged and grounded in a deep understanding of each society, this book is comparative social history at its best. High has shown us that grand strategic decisions pay benefits and impose costs on those who find themselves hosting the United States armed services.”--Jeff Webb, Department of History, Memorial University of Newfoundland; Editor, Newfoundland and Labrador Studies

"World War II was a watershed in modern history and High focuses on a critical time and element in the period, namely the consequences of the destroyers-for-bases deal made between the UK and the USA in 1940. The book is original in the geographical scope of its material and the nature of its comparative perspective. Its study of the bases in Bermuda and Newfoundland as well as the Caribbean is unique. In addition to the historiographical importance of this book, the whole question of the rights and behavior, the legality and the impact, of US service personnel in and around their bases in foreign countries is highly topical and very relevant for the foreseeable future."--Nigel Bolland, Charles A. Dana Professor of Sociology and Caribbean Studies, Emeritus, Colgate College

"Don't miss this book - it will broaden your perspectives on the effects of the Second World War." —Frank D. McCann, The Journal of Latin American Studies

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