New Narratives of Work: Increasing Worker and Community Participation at Ontario Worker Heritage Sites

Rich, Philip
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University of Guelph

This thesis explores how historians can support workers and communities in the process of recovering narratives of work in deindustrialized contexts. Public history and heritage are powerful tools for preserving and presenting Ontario’s labour history, as well as organizing labour movements. However, this needs to be done in a transparent and meaningful way. Participatory models of ‘doing’ history are key to democratizing the history-making process. Building better methods for participation in public history is crucial to involving communities in the history-making process and allow for meaningful educational opportunities that support workers and communities through intense changes that are a result of deindustrialization. By examining three existing sites of worker heritage in Ontario it is evident that they have the potential to develop immersive forms of history that are of value when advocating for heritage that prioritizes labour history in Ontario. Involved, community-led approaches to public history and heritage can help them reach this potential.

Labour history, Heritage, Community education