Ronald Rudin, Trudeau Foundation Fellow, Professor of History, Co-Director, Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling, Concordia University
Screening of Thomas Widd's Lost Story
May 28, 2014 at 10:15 a.m.
International Centre 120
St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada
The screening of Thomas Widd’s Lost Story marks the completion of the pilot for my Lost Stories/Histoires retrouvées project, funded since 2012 by a fellowship from the Trudeau Foundation. Multidisciplinary in conception and bilingual in production, the project is designed to collect little known stories about the Canadian past, transform them into inexpensive works of public art on appropriate sites, and document the process by way of a series of half-hour films, suitable for transmission by way of television or the internet.
The conception for this project flows directly from my having both written about and produced multimedia content connected with the commemoration of particular aspects of the French-Canadian past. Through these various media, I have shown that public representations of the past appear to be "natural" when we see such objects as monuments, and yet what we see are the product of a series of choices made by both promoters of these projects (interested in telling a specific story about the past grounded in the present) and artists (who have their own stories to tell and need to respond to aesthetic concerns). In short, Lost Stories is designed to show, in a way that is not overly pedantic, how a story about the past gets translated into public art.
The story for the pilot came to us following a call to the public for stories with a Montreal connection. We were fortunate to receive the story of Thomas Widd, himself a deaf person, who was the founder in the late-nineteenth century of the Mackay School for the Deaf. When Joseph Mackay provided the land and the money for the school, Widd's name -- and his own story -- were literally "lost." With the involvement of the Montreal deaf community, a number of whom view Widd as a role model and founding father, Widd's "lost" story has now been "found," thanks to the mural created by the artist Lalie Douglas (the bust of Widd from the mural is pictured here) and installed on the site of the Mackay School in September 2013. Her creative process has now been documented in a film that I produced and the filmmaker Bernar Hébert directed, and which will be screened at Congress on 28 May. I will be on hand to introduce the film and respond to questions. Since this is a pilot for a larger series, we look forward to feedback.
Since the film touches on questions of interest to the deaf community, ASL interpretation will be provided.