I am excited to say that I have been awarded a research grant through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program! My husband-elect (Erik) and I will be living in Montreal from September 2012 through May 2013.
Entitled “Ruins of Quebec: History and Memory,” my Fulbright project will be a study of abandoned places and collective memory. How do ruins function as unofficial, ephemeral monuments to the past?
While I have not selected the exact ruins to study yet, a few possibilities include the ruins of a prison, a railway shop, a grain silo, several churches, and a malting plant. I will carry out archival research on the history of each place and conduct oral history interviews with people whose lives have intersected with the sites in various ways.
The project is in part a public history endeavor involving the creation of a digital exhibit about the ruins and their histories. I hope to encourage people to go out and view the sites in person, perhaps through self-guided walking tours in public areas, a letterboxing trail, or geocaching. I’ll also be writing a paper on collective memory in Quebec as it relates to vestiges of the past embedded in the built environment.
The project will be supervised by Dr. Steven High, a historian and the director of the Centre for Oral History & Digital Storytelling at Concordia University. Dr. High’s book Corporate Wasteland: The Landscape and Memory of Deindustrialization explores the abandonment of factories, the significance of industrial ruins in different communities in Canada and the United States, and the attraction of abandoned factories for thrill-seeking urban explorers.
At some point I will post about why I decided to study ruins (short version: I first got interested in history as an urban explorer, plus I worked in a stabilized ruin for a while as a tour guide) and the various things that influenced the project design. But for now: hurrah! I’m beyond thrilled that I have the opportunity to do this.