Memory and migration: Display documents the history of Greeks in Toronto

Greek Portuguese soccer match in Toronto. 1967. Toronto Telegram fonds ASC12880

Greek Portuguese soccer match in Toronto. 1967. Toronto Telegram fonds ASC12880

The Greek Canadian History Project is marking 150 years of Greek immigrants in Toronto with “Memory and Migration: A history of Greeks in Toronto”, an exhibition of hundreds of historical images and documents in the Rotunda at Toronto City Hall, 100 Queen Street West. The exhibit, which was launched on May 12 with an evening reception, will remain on display until May 17. The event is free and open to the public.

Designed and committed to identifying, acquiring, digitizing, preserving and providing access to primary source materials that reflect the experiences of Canada’s Greek immigrants and their descendants, the Greek Canadian History Project has brought together hundreds of photos and documents donated from the collections of private individuals and organizations in the Greek-Canadian community.

Professor Sakis Gekas

Professor Sakis Gekas

The collected sources, including the items featured this week at Toronto City Hall, will be placed in the care of the Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections at the York University Libraries. The project’s stewards are Professor Sakis Gekas, Hellenic Heritage Foundation Chair in Modern Greek History at York University, and Christopher Grafos, PhD candidate in History at York University.

“This project is important because it brings the work we do at York University to the Greek community and through the exhibition at City Hall to the community at large,” said Gekas. “The project reflects our commitment to studying the history of Greek immigrants as one of the most important aspects of recent Greek history and provides a stepping stone towards the creation of a centre for the study of Greek migration at York University.”

Christopher Grafos

Christopher Grafos

The project aspires to become a continuing repository for information on Greek Canadians that would be accessible for current and future research. The donated materials have been categorized under broad themes such as social, cultural and economic practices of Greeks in Canada. The organizers invite individuals to contribute collections of papers, diaries, photographs, books, pamphlets, audio, video and other materials that will be valuable for research of the Greek Canadian past. The goal of the project is to promote the value of personal collections, which are often perceived to have little value beyond the life of an individual. The project will serve to accentuate the value of “ordinary” Greek-Canadians and the importance of preserving their memory. Objects such as yearbooks, meeting minutes, mission statements as well as privately-held collections of community leaders will help to preserve the institutional and associational history of Greeks in Canada.

“This project provides a research platform for anyone interested in the Greek immigrant narrative in Canada, which has received relatively little attention within and outside of academia,” says Grafos. “The Greek Canadian History Project is a foundation upon which books, articles or other popular forms of knowledge construction can be based. With that said, we have cast a wide net with the intention of building a resource that speaks to the many different nuances of Greek immigrant life in Ontario and Canada at large.”

Displaced Greek citizens arrive at Malton Airport. 1955. Toronto Telegram fonds ASC02581

Displaced Greek citizens arrive at Malton Airport. 1955. Toronto Telegram fonds ASC02581

While project organizers seek to preserve the primary source documentation of the community, it is also intended to provide online access to a selection of records for use by researchers, scholars, teachers, students and the general community interested in learning more about the Greek experience in Canada. This open and accessible online portal will promote free dissemination of knowledge and scholarship while preserving the original sources in the Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections, which will ensure the integrity of the record, long-term access to material, and a central location for scholarly research. The privacy of third parties will be respected in this forum. With donations, some materials will be restricted for a period of time as required by donor request or provincial or federal legislation. In short, the Greek Canadian History Project’s goal is to create an infrastructure for the recovery, acquisition, preservation and accessibility of vital primary source material that documents the experience of Greeks in the Canadian mosaic.

For more information, visit Greek Canadian History Project website.

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