Monday, 18 November 2013



            The Harbord Village Residents; Association collected approximately 100 oral histories from different residents in the neighbourhood. The history of the neighbourhood is rich and is reflected in the recorded conversations. We chose the topics for the exhibition by listening and reading the transcripts of the oral histories. Our goal as curators, was to represent shared experiences across time and space in Harbord Village. Many residents referred to food, laneways and porch activities. By focusing on these themes, we felt we could represent the community identity and use of neighbourhood spaces. It is interesting to note that many of the oral histories have converging experiences and it is clear that Harbord Village has a specific character.

     Food is an omnipresent aspect of daily life and acts as a signifier of identity. We heard many references to kitchens, dining rooms, and gardens. This made us think about the various spaces used in a neighbourhood and home for food production. In exploring this theme, we felt we were able to represent the many shared activities and traditions in Harbord Village. For example, there were many references to Thursday shopping in preparation for Shabbot dinner Friday night. No one can really deny the joy of shared food rituals.

      Laneways aside from being a leitmotif through out the oral histories, are very characteristic of the area. We felt they represented the history, evolution, and playfulness of the neighbourhood. Originally meant for horses and deliveries, the laneways evolved into playgrounds where children gathered. In the past, children would ride the local dairy delivery horse and families would notice their heads bobbing above the fences. Later, during chestnut throwing battles children would take bagel breaks. More recently the laneways have evolved from spaces for horses to spaces for cars. The laneways have always been filled with activities that represent the Harbord Village identity.

      Finally we focused on porches, transitional spaces between the privacy of the home and the public space of the neighbourhood. Often taking the place of air conditioning in the summer, they were a stage for conversation, games, and gossip. Some of the oral histories related various life lessons that were taught on the porches, the unofficial classrooms of the neighbourhood. Fostering a sense of community, they were the right distance from the sidewalk - not too close to the road and not too far from the street, perfect yelling distance. 

      Some of our challenges in creating the exhibition related to representation. We wanted to fairly and accurately represent the community and the themes we chose were our solution for addressing the varied stories of the residents. 

Learning how to engage with communities 
Learning how to engage with oral histories
How to effectively exhibit oral histories

Making sure that we were representing everyone fairly

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