Lost Stories Found

Collaboration by historians and artists reveals diverse histories.

Written by Mark Collin Reid

September 11, 2017

Think of the stories you learned in history class. Now consider what stories were left out of the texts. How many stories are waiting to be told in the margins of history?

Shining new light on these important moments is the goal of the Lost Stories Project, which combines historical research and rigour with the boundless creativity of Canada’s artistic community.

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“It’s an opportunity to think more deeply about stories we don’t know and reflect on why we don’t know them,” said Ronald Rudin, a history professor at Concordia University in Montreal.

Rudin is also the director of the Lost Stories Project and leads a team of academics, artists, and filmmakers in turning the lost stories into dynamic, engaging and informational multimedia experiences.

The project invited submissions from the public for lost stories to tell. Artists were then invited to explore the stories through inexpensive, site-specific works of art. All the while, film crews recorded the creative process.

Rudin said community involvement is crucial to the project’s success.

“History, still to a large extent, is written about people with power or influence,” he said. “And people who had other kinds of stories, they didn’t always have the means to make them well-known. They were often people who didn’t have power. These projects are being developed with those communities. It’s part of making the history we present more inclusive and reflecting those voices.”

The first lost story was the tale of Thomas Widd, a deaf man who in the late-nineteenth century founded Montreal’s Mackay School for the Deaf.

Since then, the Lost Stories team has explored the legacy of leprosy treatment at New Brunswick’s Sheldrake Island; the role an Ottawa hotel has played in assisting visitors from the Far North; the case of Yee Clun, a Chinese restaurant owner in Regina who in 1924 fought a racist law requiring him to obtain a permit to hire white women; and the tragic story of several Stó:lo boys who were kidnapped by white miners during the Fraser River gold rush of 1858.

The four Lost Stories episodes have been made possible by funding from the federal Canada 150 Signature Event Fund, created to mark the country’s sesquicentennial.

Visit LostStories.ca for participant biographies, news about the unveilings, and more.

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