“The best way to safeguard the health of the people is by providing plenty of parks and playgrounds. These places are oases of country life amid the arid streets of the city. The money spent on them is productive in the highest sense of the world. The health of its people is one of the greatest assets of the municipality and it should be safeguarded in every possible way.”
– Montreal Parks and Playgrounds Association, Fundraising Advertisement, Montreal Daily Mail, October 20th, 1916.
A Letter From the Researchers:
When our group was first assigned The Montreal Parks and Playgrounds Association for our archival research project, naturally our first step was to search the organization’s name on Google. To our surprise, not only was there no Wikipedia page, but the search did not generate any relevant results. Who were the Montreal Parks and Playgrounds Association? Without the typical springboard for any research project, we stowed our iPads and laptops and delved into the hundreds of records available in the McGill University Archives. Holding a hand written document in one’s hands, knowing that a century ago someone else had been doing the very same thing is a powerful feeling. We came to learn all about this mysterious organization that had somehow escaped the internet age, the findings of which follow. However, a valuable aspect of our experience was the research process itself. Very quickly we realized that going through each container, each file, each single page was inefficient and futile. Without the option of selecting a button in order to narrow our search, we had to establish a method for isolating the pertinent information. We divided the project into distinct components and devised crucial questions for each. Individually and based on our areas of interests, we further narrowed the topics by focusing on a specific time period, controversy, or initiative and mapped out the related terminology. These terms became our indicators or antennae moving forward. The skills we acquired are not specific to this endeavour but will be beneficial in our academic studies moving forward.
Working with primary sources comes a unique set of requirements and responsibilities. The next time someone searches for the Montreal Parks and Playgrounds Association in Google, they may come across our blog. Aware that the product of our efforts would form a secondary source for others, we had lofty goals of providing readers with a comprehensive account of what we came found in the archives. Where knowledge is power and access to information is not readily available to everyone, there is a sense of duty to deliver the undisputed and objective truth. However, simply in the recording of history it is subjectively interpreted. In our opinion, presenting our final work in the format of a blog helps to counter this notion of an authoritative truth. Comment sections allow others to respond directly to our works and have their thoughts presented alongside our own. We hope that others will engage with our assignment and question the conclusions we have made. We are interested in the notion of blogs as a site for sharing academic research.
We would like to thank Professor Laura Madokoro for this unique opportunity. We are also grateful to the McGill Archive’s staff for all of their assistance and patience. They took an interest in our work and were always available to answer our questions.
Remy Ventura, Cassandra Tooley, Ali Virji, Allyson Taylor, Alexander MacMillan, Stephane Stril