Preserving the collective memory of Portuguese Canadians | Democratizing access to historical knowledge

The Portuguese Canadian History Project | Projeto de História Luso Canadiana (PCHP | PHLC) is an incorporated, non-profit, community outreach organization founded in 2008 by Dr. Gilberto Fernandes and Dr. Susana Miranda, later joined by Dr. Raphael Costa and Dr. Emanuel da Silva, and supported by the archivist Anna St. Onge (Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections, York University Libraries). Our objectives are to:

1. Preserve the collective memory of Portuguese immigrants and their descendants in Canada.
2. Democratize access to historical knowledge, both in its consumption and production.

As young scholars researching the history of Portuguese immigrants in Canada, we encountered a scarcity of records pertaining to this group in public archives. But in the course of our fieldwork, we discovered that many individuals and organizations had amassed a trove of archival records of great value to uncovering that community’s history. Despite their owners’ best efforts, these collections were not maintained in optimal preservation conditions and were in some cases partially destroyed. The PCHP emerged in response to this reality and it has since worked to bridge the gap between public archives, immigrant communities, and academic scholars.

Archival collectionsWe believe that historiography, even that which is produced “from below,” remains inaccessible to most. Without undermining the importance of academic publications, we believe it is imperative for historians to explore other forms of communication in order to engage wider audiences and disseminate historical knowledge.

We are characterized by our pragmatism and collaborative spirit. Our motto is: “don’t reinvent the wheel.” In other words, instead of spending money on “bricks and mortar” we rather partner with individuals and organizations that have the resources, know-how, and desire to fulfill shared goals. Our collaborative model, based on community development notions of mutual empowerment, has inspired the creation or the orientation of similar organizations in other communities, including the Greek Canadian History Project, the Coptic Canadian History Project, the Italian-Canadian Archives Project, and the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives.Public history

Since September 2009, we have partnered with the Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections, York University Libraries (CTASC), with whom we have developed an exceptional synergy. We have enriched the CTASC’s holdings by facilitating the donation of archival records from individuals and organizations associated with Toronto’s Portuguese community. Besides preserving these records for present and future generations, and making them available for consultation at Scott Library, the CTASC continues to digitize the PCHP | PHLC’s collections and make them easily and freely accessible online. Together we have developed various public history and digital humanities initiatives that have connected with the general public. Educators, researchers, students and the general public can use these tools for learning and teaching about migration, ethnicity, class, gender, linguistics, geography and other social and cultural subjects pertaining to immigrants and their descendants in Canada.

Digital humanities_snapshotsIn November 2015, the PCHP | PHLC became associated with the Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies at York University, which hired our co-founder and president Gilberto Fernandes as a postdoctoral visitor, responsible for implementing our strategic plan released in 2015; conducting research; and teaching an undergraduate course. This position has been made possible thanks to a generous donation from Manuel da Costa, resulting from an ongoing fundraising campaign led by York University’s Division of Advancement.

One thought on “Preserving the collective memory of Portuguese Canadians | Democratizing access to historical knowledge

  1. Congratulations on the amazing work you are doing by preserving the memory of Portuguese Canadians.

    First of all I want you to know I really admire the project that you developed each time with fantastic people part of the Lusofonia.

    I really love the interviews and I am very proud that we have so many wonderful people that the majority of us do not know about. thank you for sharing.

    Secondly I know of two amazing Luso Canadians (sister and my daughters), that are professionals in the arts and music world; Amalia Leandro and Idalina Leandro.

    Amalia is an amazing DJ/artist for more than a decade . she is well know from US, Canada and Europe. She has her own company; Nights into Mornings (with a site). She also paints.

    Idalina is a producer/director of various short movies and TV documentaries.

    If you would be interested in interviewing them let me know and I will send their contacts or you even can Google them or see them on FB.

    Thank you kindly,


    Idalina Da Silva

    Liked by 1 person

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