Professor oversees new website exploring Portuguese diaspora

Porto, Portugal

A new website and travelling exhibit that explores the past and present of Canada’s Portuguese diaspora was developed by York University faculty member Gilberto Fernandes.

A former visiting professor in the Faculty Liberal Arts & Professional Studies’ (LA&PS) Department of History, Fernandes is currently a research associate in the Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies and was recruited by the Portuguese Embassy in Canada to create the project.

The website, titled “Movimento Perpétuo: The Portuguese Diaspora in Canada,” was officially launched on June 1, coinciding with the beginning of Portuguese Heritage Month in Canada and the upcoming 70th anniversaries of the establishing of Portugal Canada diplomatic relations (1952) and the beginning of Portuguese mass migration to Canada (1953).

Gilberto Fernandes
Gilberto Fernandes

The project contains over 70 profiles of Portuguese Canadian individuals and organizations in Ontario and Quebec; more than 80 digitized artifacts (some in 3D) crowdsourced from community members, most of them featuring audio commentary from the participants; 15 virtual tours of locations associated with the participants, featuring their audio commentary; 75 short documentaries from Rádio Televisão Portuguesa – Internacional (RTPi), National Film Board, and other sources; an illustrated timeline of Portuguese Canadian history with over 300 entries; an interactive business and service map of Toronto’s Little Portugal; videos made by community members; various selections of digitized historical records from public archives and personal collections; infographics, and more.

Participants were selected from among 100 short documentaries that Fernandes co-produced in 2015-17 for RTPi’s show Hora dos Portugueses. All of the artifacts and many of the photos, videos and records featured on the website were sourced from these participants. Many were also interviewed for the purpose of producing audio clips to accompany their materials.

A significant number of historical records featured on the website were selected from the archival holdings of the Clara Thomas Archives and Special Collections, including some of the community records donated with the help of the Portuguese Canadian History Project, of which Fernandes is the co-founder and lead director. The York University Libraries’ Digital Scholarship Infrastructure provided photographic equipment, technical training and a studio that helped develop many of the website’s immersive and interactive features.

Amanda Dinally, Ester-Judit-Flores, Madeline Ball and Rui Pascoal – undergraduate students in the Cross-Disciplinary Certificate in Public History at the LA&PS and Glendon College’s Departments of History – also made important contributions to this project during their experiential education placements in 2022-23.

The website is intended to become a community-sourced platform going forward, and a reference for researchers, teachers, students, artists, journalists and anyone interested in the Portuguese diaspora in Canada and around the world.

The exhibition with which the website is associated will be shown at the Toronto Metro Hall between Sept.11 and 22 and will be unveiled by a high-ranking official of the Portuguese government.