City Builders' launch: September 28!







Exhibition unveiling: 5 p.m. - 6 p.m.
Scott Library's Atrium, 2nd floor
Please bring a smartphone or tablet with a data plan to access the exhibition's digital content. You will need a QR code reader, or download the free mobile app izi.Travel here. Head/earphones are recommended.

Presentation and film screening: 7 p.m. - 10.00 p.m.
Price Family Cinema, Accolade East Building

Both events are open to all! Hope to see you there! 

The "City Builders" project aims to record, examine, and divulge the fascinating history of metropolitan Toronto's construction industry; particularly the experiences of Irish, Italian, and Portuguese immigrant workers and their labour organization after the Second World War. Its outputs include: 1) a travelling exhibition with extensive augmented reality-activated digital content; 2) a website packed with interactive digital resources in the form of text, photos, info graphics, audio recordings, videos, maps, and timelines (a few examples here, here, and here); 3) a series of eighteen 6-8 minute-long oral history videos about the lives of retired construction workers and union members (example here); and 4) a two-part documentary, totalling two hours, about two transformative moments in the history of Toronto's construction industry and labour movement.

The first episode of the documentary focuses on the successful campaign by the Irish-Canadian labour activist Gerry Gallagher and his Laborers' Local 183 to improve workplace safety legislation in Ontario in the 1960s-70s, when over 200 construction workers lost their lives building the city, above ground and under. The second episode focuses on the labour organization of Italian immigrant workers in the residential construction sector, known at the time as "the jungle" due to its terrible working conditions and widespread exploitation by developers and (sub)contractors. Led by the charismatic Bruno Zanini - a petty criminal and aspiring opera singer turned labour organizer - and the thundering Charles Irvine - a shillelagh-wielding, Scottish immigrant, who was once a banana boat seaman - bricklayers, plasterers, carpenters, and labourers, organized as the Brandon Union Group, engaged in two major strikes in 1960 and 61; the latter being one of the largest and most violent in the city's postwar history.

With the Clara Thomas Archives and Special Collections, we digitized over 3,200 photos from the Toronto Telegram collection, featuring incredible photos of the city's landmarks being built and of the historical agents who made them possible. Many of these have the potential of becoming iconic images of Toronto, whose dissemination will likely extend beyond the confines of this project.

All of the City Builders' digital outputs will be freely accessible online after September 28.