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La Ville Extraordinaire: photo credit © Lisa Graves

LA VILLE EXTRAORDINAIRE: LEARNING FROM OLDER MONTREALERS’ URBAN KNOWLEDGE THROUGH ORAL HISTORY RESEARCH-CREATION.

Problematic
What do older Montrealers know about urban change? How can we use creative means to foreground this knowledge and experience, and share its value with broader publics and decision-makers? And, how can this knowledge be a guide towards a more sustainable, just, and inclusive city? La ville extraordinaire will support the creation of interdisciplinary pathways to gather and make public the extraordinary urban knowledge held by older Montrealers.

Contribution to knowledge
The four community groups with whom we are working are culturally, racially, linguistically, and politically diverse, and represent very different Montreal neighbourhoods. Our methodology conjoins oral history, community-engaged arts, urban scenography, data collection, and mapping as means to register, creatively respond to, and disseminate the distinct urban knowledge of these partners. Working with digital literacy tools, established and new mapping techniques, and creative, place-based methods, we will mobilize an intergenerational, intercultural, and interdisciplinary approach to our central research questions: what do older Montrealers know about urban change? how can we use creative means to foreground this knowledge, and share its value with broader publics and decision-makers? and how can this knowledge provide a multilingual guide towards a more sustainable, just, and inclusive city?
La ville extraordinaire will make productive links between older Montrealers’ knowledge of urban change, and public, arts-based outcomes. For us, cities are not simply landscapes of youth and unfettered mobility. In addition to serving as a strategic intervention into the escalating ageist discourse in Quebec, our partnership will take the stand that living memory and creative, public storytelling are powerful means to achieve collective engagement and social transformation.

Impact
La ville extraordinaire will gather and make public the extraordinary urban knowledge held by older Montrealers. Our partnership will implement oral history research-creation as our primary method, and we will exhibit our outcomes in 2023-24 at an important Montreal museum, Mémoire des Montréalais.es, who will help us to make this knowledge visible, audible, and palpable. Our goal of gathering and sharing elders’ knowledge of urban change is ultimately to galvanize more robust and inclusive dialogues about the urban future of Montreal, as an intergenerational, intercultural, and storied place.

Cynthia Hammond (PI), Shauna Janssen (Concordia University), Denis Bilodeau and Ursula Eickerand (Concordia University)
research funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council (Partership Development Grant) 2020-2022