MONTREAL – The official unveiling of Immigrec, a truly impressive and cutting edge project documenting Greek immigration in Canada, took place on May 24. The project is supported by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) and its heart is the virtual museum of Greek immigration which sets a new standard for the study of Greek diasporic communities.
The Virtual Museum of Greek Immigration to Canada is the outcome of a 2-year research effort (2017-2018) conducted by Immigrec, an interdisciplinary educational consortium, comprising research teams from four universities in Canada (McGill, Simon Fraser and York) and Greece (Patras), thanks to the support of the SNF.
The teams conducted 431 interviews in cities across Canada from people who migrated to Canada between 1945 and 1975. They also collected archival material from public and private sources. Greek-Canadian newspapers and other publications were digitized. All this material was stored in the project’s database and mined for elements used in the Virtual Museum.
This is an online portal offering an encompassing view into the Greek-Canadian immigrant experience from the departure point all the way to today. Anyone can follow personal stories and experiences throughout the various stages of the immigration trajectory thanks to a variety of audiovisual material.
In each one of the rooms of the Virtual Museum, visitors are invited to listen to extracts of interviews by migrants narrating their story; to read newspaper articles or official documents of the period; see personal photos and objects provided by the participants. Stand in a waiting lounge and discover the experience of a migrant’s trip; stroll in a sewing room and hear the seamstresses narrate their working conditions; take a look on individual and family portraits in a photograph’s store.
The project aims to explore the history and language of Greek immigrants in Canada and elucidate their connection to the social and cultural history of the country. It contributes to the study of Greek transatlantic immigration and to the understanding of ethnic diversity in the Canadian society.
The project is also an attempt to develop interdisciplinarity among historical, sociological, and linguistic research in order to fill this gap in Greek and Canadian history and provide a fully-fledged analysis of both the historical and sociolinguistic characteristics of Greek-Canadian communities.
The major goal of socio-historical and socio-linguistic research will be to investigate the degree of adaptation of Greek immigrants, i.e. whether full assimilation has taken place, involving the full acceptance of social, cultural and linguistic norms, or whether an integration process has occurred where various socio-cultural and linguistic identity traits are preserved and creatively used. As for the purely linguistic part of the research, the project proposes the examination of how the Greek language and its dialectal variation have evolved in a language-contact situation, where English and/or French is the donor language and Greek the recipient. Interestingly, it constitutes the first attempt to conduct a thorough and systematic research on language contact on the basis of data drawn from immigrants in Canada, in an area geographically remote from Greece.
The present project attempts to move a step beyond the standard practice in linguistic and historical research by producing ground-breaking deliverables in connection with the development of digital humanities that will ensure the sustainability of the results. In this vein, new technologies are used in the collection of data in order to make them easily accessible to anyone interested in exploring the different historical, social, and linguistic aspects of Greek-Canadian communities. The deliverables of the project are expected to raise public interest in Greek-Canadian history and provide a long-lasting point of reference for educational and social purposes.
More information is available online: https://virtual.immigrec.com/.