Updated: May 9, 2018
My last 24 hours have been pretty saturated with Montreal and Quebec history. Not as boring as some of you may think as you remember everyone's favourite high school class, history of Quebec and Canada (which I actually really enjoyed... so...).
Last night, I attended Archives Passe-Mémoire's first public reading in honour of International Archives Day (celebrated every year on June 9th). And, hopefully, it will be the first of many. In a tiny room at the Société d'histoire du Plateau Mont-Royal, we gathered to listen to a selection of letters and diary entries from the archive's collection.
Actors Magali Saint-Vincent, Pascale Labonté, Maxime Lepage and Thomas Duret read the documents in character, which added a whole other layer to the experience. Archives Passe-Mémoire, created by two history professors - Magda Farhni from UQAM and Andrée Lévesque from McGill - specializes in collecting autobiographical documents, such as the letters and diary entries read last night. We were treated to soldier accounts from WWII, which were pretty funny, actually. The soldier, Laurent, wrote multiple letters contrasting Canada and England, as well as the Canadians and English. We laughed as he described that the English saw Canadians as savages, but how he thought they were actually the backwards, old-fashioned and dirty ones, explaining that they smelled and wore unfashionable glasses.
We jumped back and forth through time, hearing from mothers during the Great Depression and a teenage girl in the 60s. We travelled from Montreal, to Gaspésie, to Côte-Nord, to Europe. We listened to letters between lovers and international pen pals (which were also quite funny; think of online dating profiles and you'll imagine what these letters were like). The documents touched on themes of motherhood, isolation, abuse, family, gender and more. Don't underestimate what you can find in these types of texts.
Then, I got to see Corbo, a film directed by Mathieu Denis, starring Anthony Therrien as Jean Corbo.
I went to see this on a whim, not really sure what it was about or how it would be. I hadn't heard of it before, but it was cheapy Tuesday, so why not. In the end, I was pleasantly surprised. Corbo follows sixteen-year-old Jean, outcasted at school and caught between two identities: his father is of Italian descent, while his mother is French Canadian. Set in 1966 Montreal, we watch Corbo become more and more involved with the FLQ. The film pretty much encapsultes many of my historical interests, so that may be why I liked it so much.
It dealt with Anglophone-Francophone relations during the Quiet Revolution, politics at the time, Italophobia (Jean even tries to do an oral presentation on the Italian internment during WWII at his French private school, and gets kicked out of class for it), the status of immigrants, the "Other" and, particularly, Italians during the 1960s... plus the art direction and cinematography were excellent. I'll be conducting a lot of research on this period and these themes when I begin my honours thesis next school year. It's nice knowing that they're also being discussed in a more accessible and public way.
Today, though, Jackie and I continued our current work and research, completing our third interview for our Women of Montreal project! This morning, we had the opportunity to speak to Andrée Lévesque about her work on Éva Circé-Côté. Interview after interview, it still continues to amaze me how much knowledge these historians have, and how much time they have dedicated acquiring that knowledge.
Finally, I'm ending my very historical 24 hours by completing a workshop I have been researching and creating for the Centre d'archives Vaudreuil-Soulanges on Pierrette Champoux.