TORONTO, Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018 – Whether high above the city on steel girders, under the ground digging tunnels, driving dump trucks or pouring concrete foundations, this city was largely built on the backs of immigrant workers. York University post-doctoral visitor Gilberto Fernandes at the Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies and Department of History has just completed a multi-media research and public history project detailing postwar Toronto as it grew outward, upward and under.
The project, City Builders: A History of Immigrant Construction Workers in Postwar Toronto, will launch Friday with a multi-media exhibition, a presentation and a film screening. The project used more than 3,200 photos from the Toronto Telegram collection, including of the some of the city’s landmarks under construction, which were digitized by the Clara Thomas Archives and Special Collections at York. There are also audio recordings, videos, digital maps and timelines, as well as essays by prominent historians, biographies of some of the leading figures of the time, a two-part documentary and a travelling exhibit.
The account includes the struggles, unsafe working conditions, deaths and dreams of immigrants primarily from Italy, Ireland and Portugal. “The history of Toronto’s construction industry is filled with fascinating personal stories of bravery and foolishness, selfishness and greed, friendship and enmity, triumph and tragedy, all marked by the pursuit of individual and collective dreams,” said Fernandes of the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies, who is available for interviews this week.
Many of those stories are told by retired construction workers. More than 240 of their peers were killed between 1950 and 1979, while thousands more were permanently disabled, especially in residential and industrial construction.
WHO: York U alumnus and post-doctoral visitor Gilberto Fernandes, Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies. Deputy Toronto Mayor Ana Bailão, the daughter of a Portuguese immigrant construction worker, will say a few words.
WHAT: Unveiling of the research and public history project, City Builders: A History of Immigrant Construction Workers in Postwar Toronto, featuring a multi-media exhibit, including photos, audio recordings, video, artifacts and a presentation, followed by a film screening of a two-part documentary of two transformative moments in the history of Toronto’s construction industry and labour movement.
For the multi-media exhibit, people will need a smartphone or tablet with a data plan to access the exhibition's digital content, along with a QR code reader, or they can download the free mobile app izi.Travel. Head/earphones are recommended.
WHERE: The exhibit will be in the Scott Library Atrium, 2nd Floor, Scott Library (See on Map). The presentation and screening will take place in the Price Family Cinema, Accolade East Building (See on Map).
WHEN: Friday, Sept. 28, from 5 to 6pm, for the exhibit and 7 to 10pm for the presentation and screening.
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Sandra McLean, York University Media Relations, 416-736-2100 ext. 22097, email@example.com