Innovative York Research Gallery represents a Congress first

It’s an age-old question: How does an organization as diverse as York University tell a chapter in its story in just a few lines or with a brief glimpse? That was the dilemma facing the York Congress Academic Planning Committee when they considered options for communicating the myriad of innovative research projects taking place at York University. How could they convey the breadth and importance of this research, specifically York’s expertise in the humanities and social sciences, to visiting scholars and researchers during Congress 2006?

Above: The York Research Gallery offers a sampling of 20 innovative research
projects currently underway at the University

From May 27 to June 3, York University will host over 8,000 delegates to the 75th Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences (formerly the Learneds). The committee also wanted to convey the message that York has come of age to delegates attending one of the largest academic events ever held at the University — an important message given that the last Congress held at York took place in 1969, when the University was a solitary intellectual outpost in north Toronto. They knew that to focus delegates on the richness and diversity of research at York would require a unique approach. Consider how an art gallery exhibit is staged: Stunning visuals are accompanied by a brief description conveying the artistic intent behind the work. Translate that concept into an exhibit that highlights research and the result is York’s Research Gallery.

A Congress first, the Research Gallery, housed on the second floor of the Scott Library for the duration of Congress, highlights 20 diverse research projects in poster form. Each of the posters features a dynamic visual and some concise lines of descriptive copy.

Right: A gallery poster highlights up and coming urban researchers

“The Congress Academic Planning Committee and York’s Marketing & Communications Division knew that there was a lot of innovative research at York and that the story of this research does not necessarily surface in the media,” said Laurence Boucher, director, account direction for York’s Marketing & Communications Division. Boucher and her staff were responsible for implementing the vision of a research gallery. “We knew that there would be a large number of academics coming to York as part of the 75th Anniversary of the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences and the team was seeking a way to facilitate the meeting of Congress delegates with the faculty at York whose research could be of interest to delegates.

The committee also wanted to cluster the projects featured in the Research Gallery under the Congress 2006 theme of The City: A Festival of Knowledge. “Having decided to choose the city as the theme of the Congress, the Congress Academic Committee wanted to highlight the city-related research undertaken at York University in a special way,” said Professor Engin Isin, York’s Canada Research Chair in Citizenship and a member of the Congress Academic Planning Committee. “The purpose of the research gallery was to highlight a broad spectrum of research ranging from large-scale collaborative projects to those with national and international eminence.”

Another priority of the committee was to highlight the next generation of researchers and the host of interesting research undertaken by York’s graduate students. The gallery seemed to be the best route to achieving all of the objectives.

Left: The gallery poster highlighting the research project by York’s Canada Research Chair in Citizenship, Professor Engin Isin

The concept was posed to the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, holders of the permanent secretariat for Congress, and received the go-ahead to proceed. Using as a template a smaller gallery idea, which was developed in June 2005 when the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada held its council meetings at York (see the June 29, 2005 issue of YFile), the team set to work selecting projects and working collaboratively with researchers and staff in York’s Marketing & Communications Division to distill information on each of the projects selected for the gallery into a short, focused paragraph. The information was then packaged with York’s distinctive brand into large format posters which highlight the key points of each of the research projects. An additional poster highlights knowledge mobilization.

“The gallery also includes a poster on knowledge mobilization at York University because it represents a Canadian first,” said Boucher. “Knowledge mobilization connects researchers in the social sciences and humanities with policy makers and community organizations across Canada. It provides a vehicle for policy makers and community organizations to become engaged with academic research.”

The finished project is a colourful and engaging visual and information display on a variety of research projects including:

  • SARS & the Global City (S. Harris Ali, Roger Keil)
  • Managing Migration & Diversity in the Greater Toronto Area (Paul Anisef)
  • Revealing the Hidden History of Canada (Gordon Darroch)
  • Changing Urban Waterfronts (Gene Desfor)
  • Understanding Emerging Digital Literacies (Caitlin Fisher)
  • Cities & Citizenship (Engin Isin)
  • A Transnational Perspective on Immigration (Michael Lanphier)
  • Helping Newcomers to Settle in Canada (Lucia Lo)
  • The Visible City Project + Archive (Janine Marchessault)
  • The Refugee Research Cluster (Susan McGrath)
  • Diaspora, Islam & Gender (Haideh Moghissi, Saeed Rahnema, Mark Goodman)
  • Sustainability & Cultures of Nature (Catriona Mortimer-Sandilands)
  • Addressing Bullying: Building Healthy Relationships (Debra Pepler)
  • Housing Immigrants in Canadian Cities (Valerie Preston)
  • Restructuring Work & Labour in the New Economy (Norene Pupo)
  • Addressing Disability Discrimination Worldwide (Marcia Rioux)
  • Community-University Research Alliance (CURA) on Contingent Work (Leah Vosko)
  • Saving Our Urban Backyard (Gerda Wekerle)
  • City & Reserve: Spaces of Aboriginal Citizenship (Patricia Wood)
  • Law, Political Economy & Global Cities (Peer Zumbansen)

The gallery highlights York’s strength in collaboration and synergy in research. It showcases a broad array of research and is not targeted to specifics; instead it touches all areas of York’s research in the social sciences and humanities. “Professor Isin worked very hard to ensure that the projects highlighted in the Research Gallery reflected all of the principles of Congress,” said Boucher. “York’s graduate students are involved in the gallery because they are the next generation of researchers and the displays provide a glimpse of their work.”

Right: The gallery poster highlighting the work of researcher Gerda Wekerle

The projects are also highlighted in an accompanying printed guide. Nine graduate student projects and 18 specific graduate students are highlighted in the gallery guide, said Boucher.

Some of the posters have been re-purposed from last June’s SSHRC exhibit. Each of the new posters has been carefully designed to have an extended life and forms part of a growing collection of material which can be used for other functions.

All of the posters will be available on York’s Research Web site following the conclusion of Congress. To view a downloadable PDF copy of the Research Gallery Guide, click here.