Opening Keynote and Mixer

The 2018 AGHS will feature an opening keynote presentation followed by a conference mixer on Thursday, May 10. This event will take place at Campbell House Museum, and allows conference attendees to meet University of Toronto History graduate students and faculty in a relaxed environment.

Barbara LorenzkowskiOur keynote lecture will be given by Barbara Lorenzkowski, Associate Professor of History and a former Co-Director of the Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling at Concordia University, Montreal. She is the author of Sounds of Ethnicity: Listening to German North America (University of Manitoba Press, 2010) and has published several book chapters and articles on the history of migration, culture and transnationalism. Dr. Lorenzkowski’s current research explores the social spaces of childhood in Atlantic Canada during the Second World War. Based on close to one hundred history interviews conducted in the port cities of Halifax, St. John’s, and Saint John, she examines the ‘small spaces’ of childhood, children’s mobility in the wartime city, gendered tales of growing up and coming of age, the alternate chronologies of childhood, and children’s sensory explorations of the wartime city. 

Sensing War: Childhood Memories of the Wartime Atlantic, 1939-1945  

Between 1939 and 1945, H. Bruce Jefferson, the wartime censor for Atlantic Canada, had a front-row seat in witnessing the changes that transformed Halifax, Nova Scotia, into the most important naval base of the Allied forces in North America.  In his office on the seventh-floor of an art deco “skyscraper” overlooking the harbour Jefferson monitored the press coverage as closely as he did the movement of naval vessels in the harbour.   

Whereas Jefferson revelled in the sweeping, panoramic view from his censor’s office, children in wartime Halifax experienced the city at a different scale. Their recollections of the war were anchored in local streets and neighbourhoods.  Theirs were emplaced memories, intimate in scope, embedded in the social networks of families and friends, and attuned to the rhythms of their immediate surroundings.  Children in Halifax were walkers in the city, who encountered the war at street level and, as adults, would recall a world rich in sensory and emotional experiences.  For children, the war registered on an emotional scale whose keynotes were adventure and excitement rather than fear and anxiety. 

This lecture takes up the contention that sensory history is tightly intertwined with the history of emotions.  It turns to forty accounts of childhood in 1940s Halifax, Nova Scotia, a port city dramatically transformed by the war, to ask how oral narrators inscribed emotions into space.  Attuned to the rhythms of the wartime city, their sense of danger still being forged, oral history narrators evoke a wartime world bubbling with possibility. Just as the philosopher and cultural critic Walter Benjamin has described the modern city as an intoxicating space, children in wartime Halifax experienced the city as a vibrant, exciting, and playful world. It did not seem to matter that children’s play-spaces contracted as every plot of vacant land was being used for the war effort; for the city itself had become a theatre of war. 

Campbell House Museum

imageThe Campbell House is located at 160 Queen St. West, near the intersection of University and Queen. The location is a unique feature of Toronto’s local history, as the oldest surviving house from the original site of the Town of York. Built in 1822, the Campbell House is a beautiful example of Georgian architecture, located in the heart of downtown Toronto.

Because the Campbell House is a historic home, we regret that this location is not fully accessible; it lacks ramps and elevators. The evening’s events will take place on all three floors of the house, and the washrooms are in the basement. Please contact us at aghstoronto@gmail.com with any questions or concerns about accessibility.

Directions and additional assistance will be provided to aid conference attendees in getting from the U of T campus to the Campbell House.