- Histoire et patrimoine. Pistes de recherche et de mise en valeur ed. by Joanne Burgess, Paul-André Linteau
The members of the Laboratoire d’histoire et de patrimoine de Montréal (lhpm) have rightly garnered a reputation for diverse, cutting-edge, interdisciplinary, and cross-sector research since the inception of the project. Over its nearly fifteen-year existence, members from the Université du Québec à Montréal and elsewhere have published studies not only on Montreal society but also on its physical and cultural heritage in digital humanities research as well as in several works of public history and collaborations with local stakeholders. This collection is the fruit of the tenth anniversary colloquium held in 2016, which aimed to assess the lhpm’s successes and reflect on its future orientations. The book presents nine chapters, born of those presentations that could easily be translated into text, necessarily excluding papers strongly based on interactive and visual electronic media. The result is a rich and diverse, but not particularly cohesive, collection. [End Page 157]
Variety is the primary takeaway from the book, and Montreal is by no means the sole object of study. Chapters range from a look at street development and street life in Montreal (Paul-André Linteau) and public revitalization of urban heritage outside Montreal (Fernand Harvey) to digitally aided reconstruction of lost Montreal sites (Harold Bérubé, Joanne Burgess and Michelle Comeau, Alain Gelly, and Nathalie Charbonneau and Anne Thirion) and an overview on Akhenaton-era architecture in fourteenth-century bce Egypt, as studied with 3D-rendering tools (Robert Vergnieux). Though all of the works included are of high quality and provide convincing evidence, it is difficult to imagine anyone choosing to read every chapter, unless one is interested in digital humanities writ large.
Bracketing the core chapters are two texts worth particular notice. Pierre Desrochers and Sophie Limoges propose a reflection on citizen and public uses of archaeological heritage in Quebec. They focus specifically on how Quebec actors – from collectors to the state – appropriate archaeological finds and sites and create identity and belonging for those who find value in them. They make a cogent argument for a greater involvement of governmental and para-governmental institutions in the acquisition and conservation of archaeology in Quebec and for greater study and public education. The authors’ assertion that citizen-collectors are primarily attracted to archaeology through their senses rather than cognition is reductive. Although it is true that “expert” mediation (by academics, usually) is required to organize institutional use of archaeological heritage, citizen-collectors can also be experts for all that they may still be amateurs. Nevertheless, this chapter presents a strong call to action for the return of direct provincial involvement in archaeological heritage valorization.
The book closes with another call to action by Léon Robichaud. A long-time specialist of digitally aided research of historically built spaces, Robichaud makes a strong case for cogent uses of geographic information systems and 3D modelling in historical research and related fields. Providing a basic technical overview of the Système de cartographie de l’Histoire de Montréal (schema), developed by the lhpm, he shows the wide potential of this tool. His brief presentation of four research projects, which used schema in the study of Montreal’s urban and economic development, succeeds in convincing that such a use of cross-referenced digitized historical maps is where innovative urban studies can occur. Robichaud’s excitement is genuine, justified, and contagious.
Considering how little related the book’s themes are, Burgess and Linteau should be commended for their introduction, finding coherent threads in these rather divergent articles. As such, the chapters present a wide spectrum of methodological approaches to urban studies, within and without Montreal. Especially, they underscore the worth of digital humanities in advancing knowledge and the massive potential of digital analysis of urban society, built space and architecture, development, habitation, commerce, and transportation. As such, the...