Thursday, March 24, 2011

Verdun History Celebrated

The Montreal Gazette printed an article about a group of Verdun Residents who got together to celebrate & remember Verdun's history:

MONTREAL - Kathryn Harvey was 14 when her family left Verdun for a new life in Lachine. Although her house was only a short distance away, it would take more than two decades – and a community history project – before Harvey returned to wander down Wellington St. and Church Ave. and get a fresh flavour for the old neighbourhood.

A McGill University-trained historian, Harvey was recruited a couple of years ago by the Dawson Community Centre, which was eager to help anglophone seniors in Verdun capture their story at a time when the working-class district was undergoing a transformation from manufacturing hub to gentrified suburb.

“The anglophone working class often feel as if they don’t fit anywhere in Quebec history,” said Harvey, who sees a parallel between Verdun and other vanishing – in some instances, already gone – English-speaking pockets in Rosemont, Park Extension and Hochelaga-Maisonneuve.

Working with 12 “totally passionate” Verdun residents ranging in age from their late 60s to their mid-80s, Harvey’s team put together a short film, a website ( and a community quilt.

The Verdun old-timers made collages to showcase their vintage photos and shared stories of school days at Riverview or summer afternoons on the boardwalk, connecting with their past and reconnecting with their community, whether they live in Verdun, the West Island or the West Coast.

On Saturday, the Quebec Anglophone Heritage Network, in concert with the Concordia’s School of Extended Learning and the Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling, will host a conference aimed at helping amateur historians, particularly those in the English-speaking Montreal community, learn how to preserve their stories.

“People want a sense of connection to their environment,” said historian Lorraine O’Donnell, who curated such community-centred projects as the Irish exhibit at the McCord Museum last year and another that focused on the once-vibrant, now mostly disappeared, Jewish community in Quebec City.

“For some, it’s a wish to know more about their ancestors who settled here 200 years ago. For newer arrivals, it’s a desire to better understand where they are. For English-speaking people, there is a special desire to understand how they fit into the conception of who is a Quebecer.”

Erin McDonagh, coordinator of the daylong conference, said often people have great stories to tell but don’t know where to begin to access resources. Discussions and workshops are designed to help people get started, find funding from government and private sponsors, archive documents, and develop a website.

O’Donnell said access to government services has improved a great deal over the last few years, yet often English-speaking Quebecers aren’t aware of what’s available or don’t know how to make government programs work for them.

“People might know the history, but not know how to share it with others. Or sometimes stories and experiences are very well known within a particular group or neighbourhood but they don’t know that other people aren’t familiar with that slice of Montreal life.”

O’Donnell and Harvey see such community-based history projects as a way to inject vitality, confidence and a sense of belonging, especially for English-speaking Montrealers from working-class backgrounds.

“Verdun and the whole southwest sector went through a terrible time after the free trade agreement, as factories closed, jobs were lost and young people moved away,” said Harvey.

Many thanks to Kathryn Harvey & people like her who understand the importance of keeping the Spirit of a Community alive.

Want more Verdun History & Content , visit the Verdun Connections site on the Multiply Network, it's free to jon Multiply & have your own personal page,and from there join the Verdun Connections site too. You can choose to participate & post stories,video, or photos and share your Verdun (or Montreal pictures & experience) with others. You also can choose to just read the stories already there, give it a try ,
Have a look at the content by selecting eithewr the Home page, te Message Boards, the Video section, the Photo Albums, or some of the Links posted here.
Above All Have Fun and Remember Verdun


Les F said...

Very interesting old story carried over from the old site. these Verdun photographs sure spark the memory banks Great old pictures from the Verdun archives.

Les F said...

Great story and even better old Verdun photographs. they have been carried over from our old VC site.

LesF said...

Unfortunately the old Verdun Connection site that started on MSN groups years ago then carried on the Multiply Social Network no longer exists, all the stories (most of them) have been saved right here on this Verdun Connections Blogsite. I do not actively maintain this site, like the old versions, nor does anyone need to 'join' to view the content, there is a lot of daily traffic ,people just surfing the net & stopping by to read the stories, The onl need to join would be if someone wanted to be alerted to any new post that may pop up. I only post periodically to keep the site alive. Many of the original photgraphs did not successfully make the transition over to here,but I do have most of the photos saved somewhere or other & on occasion I will dig one up for anyone who asks.
I don't rule out starting another Verdun site at some point, but I will have to see a decent venue before I commit to doing anything like that. (I do not like FB, so that is out.but I understand there are seceral Verdun themed sites on FB that you might want to research.good luck & thanks for popping by. Cheers ! -LesF