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The MAP Project—Exploring nineteenth-century Montreal
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The project


The development of the MAP project has been overseen by Robert Sweeny, a historian at Memorial University of Newfoundland, and Sherry Olson, a geographer at McGill University. Since 2015, the CIEQ has been developing techniques of visualization for bringing the entire geobase online, as a way of promoting data discovery through 'Viz'. As a result, the Espace CIEQ is now home to a new interactive version of MAP. The site was designed and programmed by CIEQ staff members Jean-François Hardy, Tomy Grenier, Émilie Lapierre Pintal and Philippe Desaulniers. This mobilization of historical, geographical, scholarly and technical know-how has been made possible by a grant from the Fonds de recherche du Québec—Société et culture.

Many others have also contributed to the project over the last twenty years. We quickly abandoned any hope of accurately tallying the thousands of hours of data entry, student research, overtime, and volunteering that have been put in. Many other scholars have generously contributed data generated in the course of their own projects.

Back in the 1980s, David Hanna, Robert Lewis, and Jason Gilliland defined street segments and grouped them into the districts used in the Bird’s Eye View section. The earliest research results were published in the Historical Atlas of Canada (Volume 2, Plate 49, published in 1993; and Volume 3, Plate 30, published in 1990). Rob further pursued his analysis of industrial buildings and industrial workers, and published Manufacturing Montréal in 2000. Travelling by bicycle and with the help of undergraduate students, Jason took many of the photographs used in the project, while David and Quoc Thuy Thac measured houses. The work was all done using pencils, tracing paper, and cameras. The initial data largely came from the municipal archives, which at the time were housed in a deep and dusty vault. Jason went on to study the widening of streets and the reconstruction of lots after fires. Jason, Don LafrenièreLafreniere and other students at the University of Western Ontario have created a more elaborate HGIS for London, Ontario. Now a professor at Michigan Tech, Don is building an "HGIS" for counties in the state’s Copper Country.

In the 1990s, when Statistics Canada released the microfilms of the 1901 Census for scholarly research, several teams began exploring these sources. Thanks to their generosity, we have been able to integrate the data they collected on Montréal into the MAP databases.

In 1998, Peter Baskerville and Eric Sager published a study covering six cities and titled Unwilling Idlers. The Urban Unemployed and their Families (1998). Building on this experience, Sager then organized a larger research team called the Canadian Families Project, which created a 5% random sampleof the 1901 Census covering the whole of Canada. The results of this carefully controlled, coded, and documented research provides the most used and most reliable source for comparing Montréal with other parts of Canada. Bettina Bradbury was among those who participated in the Canadian Families Project. Her first book, Working Families (1993), had taken full advantage of the 1861 and 1881 census data for Sainte-Anne and Saint-Jacques wards. She later published From Wife to Widow (2011), a study of the lives of Montréal women through marriage, motherhood, and widowhood. Bradbury also points to many useful sources and the challenges associated with them.

Danielle Gauvreau and Peter Gossage collected population data for the 33 census divisions featured in the "Home Base" section. They described their methods and reported their findings in a paper published in the Revue d’histoire de l’Amérique française (PDF) in 2000. Their sample was intended as a fine-grained supplement to the Canadian Families Project for use in a study on birthrates.

Mary MacKinnon and Chris Minns collected data for 66 neighbourhoods, each composed of 50 households. (Their subsamples, which cover areas smaller than a census division, will also be made available.) After they had published their findings on earnings and employment, Jason Dean, then a doctoral student in economics at McGill, gathered and published corresponding data for 1911. In all likelihood, fascinating interactions and clusters remain to be discovered within each of the small neighbourhoods they covered.
(See MacKinnon, Mary, 2000. "Unilingues ou bilingues? Les Montréalais sur le marché du travail en 1901" L'Actualité économique, Société Canadienne de Science Economique, 76, no 1: 137-158.

Patricia Thornton and Sherry Olson collected a sample of young families that had surnames beginning with B and included a child under the age of four years. The goal was to identify a population of babies born between 1 April 1899 and 31 March 1900 (inclusive). Thornton and Olson collected birth and death dates from parish registers of baptisms and burials, but they needed the census to confirm whether a baby had survived and (even if the baby had died) whether the family continued to live in the city. They also used the digital version of the 1881 Census (a project in which Lisa Dillon played a central role), available at the Programme de recherche en démographie historique (PRDH).

Patricia, Danielle, and Sherry have done additional work to make the two sets of census records easier to compare. With the help of Caroline Sauriol, they standardized variables used for Montréal in the 1881 Census. With cooperation from the several research teams and help from Jason Dean and Jacob Larsen, they integrated the various digital samples from the 1901 Census and standardized occupations. Julia Mitroi used the online index and microfilm images to verify addresses in the 1901 Census.

In 2000, with funding from both Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada and Geoide (then a National Centre of Excellence), a group of graduate students launched MAP. Kevin Henry, who now teaches at Temple University, taught his professors the basic GIS techniques.

Librarians and archivists are among valued partners of the MAP project. Rosa Orlandini, now Map and GIS librarian at York University, served for 12 months as our first fully trained GIS technician. Jean-François Palomino, now Curator of Maps at Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ), was among the doctoral students who initiated MAP. As a librarian at McGill University, Carol Marley collaborated with geographers to establish a Geographic Information Centre where Ruilan Shi and Rosa, among others, counselled us. The McCord Museum has provided the project with illustrations from its remarkable collection. Mario Robert, Director of the Service des Archives de la Ville de Montréal, unearthed key documents. François Dufaux, Gilles Lauzon, Alan Stewart, Mary Anne Poutanen, and members of the Montréal History Group have all assisted with the search for documents and examples over the last two decades.

The MAP project received support from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) for 25 years. At various times, it has “piggybacked” on projects led by principal investigators Danielle Gauvreau, Patricia Thornton, Sherry Olson, Joanne Burgess, Jean-Claude Robert, Jason Gilliland, Kevin Schwartzman, and Dick Menzies (Canadian Institutes of Health Research). The research conducted by Schwartzman and Menzies was focused on the epidemiology of tuberculosis.

Since 2000, Robert Sweeny and Sherry Olson Olson have continued their efforts to place all of the data collected from tax rolls, censuses, and city directories on the maps. Robert’s recent book, Why Did We Industrialize? (2015), discusses many of the challenges involved. He has published several papers on property ownership and continues to study its effects on the organization of social life in the city.



For additional information or to make suggestions,
Sherry Olson
  Dept. of Geography
McGill University
805 Sherbrooke St. W.
Montréal, QC, H3A 0B9
Robert C.H. Sweeny
  Dept. of History
Memorial University
of Newfoundland
St John's TN A1C 5S7
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