History Matters Podcast: Susana Miranda on Portuguese Women in Toronto’s Cleaning Industry, 1970-1990

Last Thursday, historian Susana Miranda gave a talk called “Keeping the City Clean: Portuguese Women in Toronto’s Cleaning Industry, 1970-1990”  at the Bloor/Gladstone branch of the Toronto Public Library.   The lecture is part of the Toronto Public Library’s History Matters series.

As you can see in the image to the left, she started her presentation with a shot of the downtown office towers that grew to dominate the Toronto skyline by the late 1960s.  Miranda proceeded to examine the labour struggles of the women who cleaned these skyscrapers and other buildings across the growing metropolis.

Her talk is available here for audio download.  The lecture is based on research for Miranda’s PhD dissertation, completed earlier this year.

The last of this year’s History Matters talks takes place tomorrow, November 4th, when Megan Davies and David Reville present “Locating Parkdale’s Mad History: Back Wards to Back Streets, 1980-2010” at Toronto’s Parkdale library.    Click here for more details.

Remembering Francis: Sharing life and sharing the past

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On Friday night I sat down at my computer to write out a post for this morning and nothing came.  Last week was a busy week for me and it was filled with a number of surprises (some pleasant, some less so).  One of the major events of the week was the death of my friend Francis.

Francis displaying his artwork

Over the past five years I have spent many Friday afternoons with Francis and the Club at L’Arche Daybreak in Richmond Hill.  Daybreak is a community that focuses on sharing life with people with different gifts and abilities; at its heart are men and women with intellectual disabilities.  On Friday afternoons at the Club, a program for retirees, we often gather around the television screen to look at old community photographs.  The members of the Club tell me stories about their past experiences, and I annotate the images in a digital database with the names of the people in the picture and the stories associated with them. Continue reading

Jennifer Bonnell on the history of prisons, pollution, and homelessness in Toronto’s Don River valley: History Matters series podcast

"Ice jam Don River looking southeast from north of Queen Street", 1901, from City of Toronto Archives

Historian Jennifer Bonnell recently gave a talk called “Isolating Undesirables: Prisons, Pollution and Homelessness in Toronto’s Don River Valley, 1860-1932” at the Berndale branch of the Toronto Public Library.   The lecture is part of the Toronto Public Library’s History Matters series.

The lecture is based on research for Bonnell’s PhD dissertation, which examined the social and environmental history of the lower Don River valley.

Her talk is available here for audio download.

Next week ActiveHistory.ca will post another recent History Matters talk, Susana Miranda’s discussion of Portuguese women in Toronto’s cleaning industry from 1970 to 1990.

The next History Matters talk takes place on Thursday, November 4th, when Megan Davies and David Reville present “Locating Parkdale’s Mad History: Back Wards to Back Streets, 1980-2010” at Toronto’s Parkdale library.    Click here for more details.

New Book Review – Canuck Rock: A History of Canadian Popular Music

Today we have a new book review by Carrie Schmidt, who is an archivist and librarian currently living in Vancouver, BC, via Montreal, QC, and originally from Edmonton, AB.  She has reviewed Ryan Edwardson’s Canuck Rock: A History of Canadian Popular Music (University of Toronto, 2009, $27.95).

Find the review here.

If you would like to review a book for ActiveHistory.ca and you are not a professional historian or graduate student, please get in touch: info@activehistory.ca. You can learn more about our book review section here.

The Return of the Narrative?

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The history curriculum in UK schools is to be overhauled with the help of Simon Schama, an announcement made five months after the controversy sparked by the alleged invitation extended to Niall Ferguson.  The concerns remain the same: that history is disappearing through falling demand, at least in state schools; that where it is taught, the topic-based approach of the national curriculum develops no sense of a coherent narrative of British history and necessarily omits important episodes and figures (such as Churchill).  ‘The trashing of our past has to stop,’ Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, insisted, echoing Ferguson’s call for a ‘campaign against junk history’ following recent, successful campaigns to improve school meals.

Geoffrey Alderman agreed.  He argued that pupils lack a grasp of the broad sweep of British history, as teaching has moved away from a survey approach to one focused on skills.  Proponents of the latter regard history’s major importance as lying in the discipline’s development of critical and evaluative faculties and the ability to construct a sound argument.  History does indeed develop these skills, Alderman argues, but that is not its purpose: ‘History is the collective memory of society. It is that memory which informs society’s attitude to itself and to the world around it.’ Continue reading

Telling the stories of a Toronto street through transit shelter panels

Torontonians go to the polls today to vote in the city’s municipal election.  Transportation, and plans for transit in particular, has been a prominent theme during the long election race.  Much of the debate has focused on whether the city should stick with Transit City (a plan already started that will criss-cross the metropolis with numerous light rail lines) or substitute the scheme with more subways.

A streetcar shelter on St. Clair West Avenue

One of the more controversial transit infrastructure projects of the last decade is the St. Clair Avenue West Transit Improvement Project, which has replaced an already existing but physically-deteriorating streetcar line with a rebuilt line traveling along its own lane.  Members of the local community, especially businesses, complained that the project would hurt the area, and even unsuccessfully tried to stop it in court.  Perhaps because of the controversy of the line, another interesting part of the project has been relatively overlooked.  The streetcar shelters for the new right-of-way include a series of interpretive panels: a fascinating example of one city using community involvement to collect and tell stories about a locality. Continue reading

Third History Matters series lecture uncovers Toronto’s subway past

Jay Young, a PhD student in history and ActiveHistory.ca steering committee member, recently gave a talk called “A Public Technology: Building Toronto’s Yonge Street Subway”.  The lecture is part of the Toronto Public Library’s History Matters series.

The lecture discussed various episodes surrounding the building of Toronto’s original Yonge Street subway line during the late 1940s and early 1950s, with particular attention paid to the impacts of construction on local merchants and residents, and the immediate reactions of Torontonians towards the subway after it opened in 1954.

Young’s talk is available here for audio download.

The next History Matters lecture take place Thursday, October 21st, when Susana Miranda delivers a talk titled “Keeping the City Clean: Portuguese Women in Toronto’s Cleaning Industry, 1970-1990”. Click here for more details.

“Come On Over”: Call-In Collaborative History in Northeastern Ontario

The 'Come on Over' Website

When up in the Sudbury and Manitoulin areas for a quick research trip in mid-September, driving several hundred kilometres, I became well-acquainted with CBC Sudbury. On Morning North, there was a regular program by two Laurentian University professors conducting research for their upcoming book Come on Over: Northeastern Ontario A-Z. In what sounds like a cross between an encyclopedia and a guidebook, the community really seemed engaged in its production. Continue reading

A Forgotten Story: The Race Against Time to Unearth the Holocaust by Bullets – 1941-1944

When you think of the Holocaust, what images immediately come to mind?  Perhaps you see the infamous Arbeit Macht Frei sign above the gated entry to Auschwitz I, emaciated bodies, crowded conditions, barracks in concentrations camps, yellow stars, victims forced to board trains, or tattoos that branded prisoners and slave labourers. For most people, images of gas chambers and of emaciated bodies of Jews, Poles, Gypsies, homosexuals and others in concentration camps like Auschwitz first come to mind when the Holocaust is mentioned.  The systematic murder of 2.25 million Jews during the “Holocaust by bullets” in present day Ukraine and Bella Russia between 1941 and 1944 is often forgotten, or simply overlooked.

These images reflect that more personal form of killing (editors note: some of these images are graphic): Continue reading

Is Wikipedia Worth the Trouble?

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Formally launched by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger in 2001, Wikipedia — the “free encyclopedia that anyone can edit” — has become the first (and often only) stop in Internet fact-finding.

With well over ten million articles to date, Wikipedia has evaded overt corporate influence through a non-profit structure and currently ranks among the top ten most visited sites on all of the web.  Or so it would seem.

Of course, all of that sounds about right; but, since the above information is entirely derived from Wikipedia itself we can’t really be too sure, can we? Continue reading