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Turning Old into New: The Old Port of Montreal

In the second installment of this series on Quebec Environmental History (first intallment found here: http://niche-canada.org/node/10261), brought to you by my students in McGill’s ENVR 380 class, is by Florent Conti, and focuses on the environmental history of one of Montreal’s most beloved and used landmarks, the Old Port. In his short documentary, Florent combines scholarly analysis with raw footage to complexify the cultural and environmental processes behind what made the “Old Port” old.

Describing the project, Florent writes,

“The Old Port of Montreal has evolved from a place of industrial activity to a massive touristic hub. How did our perception of the urban environment develop? Do the transformations of the Old Port represent a change or a continuity in the way we interact with land and our urban environment?

The Old Port of Montreal, despite its configuration now designed to fit leisure activities and tourism, still presents some signs of what happened in the past and the role it had in the development of the city (and the country). Nevertheless, few visitors are aware of the history of the Old Port, except that they know it is “old.” We simply consider it as a “must see” in Montreal, without really realizing the reason why.

In the end, we could make an analogy between the Quays of the Old Port, and parks (“green spaces” as Michèle Dagenais would say), in order to highlight the role of the harbour front since the 1970s when people started to think about new ways of looking at the Port, which was beginning to be less welcoming for industries that got bigger and bigger throughout the 19th and 20th century (and also because maritime trading has faced a lot of competition since the second part of the 20th century).

This short documentary attempts to show the evolution of Montreal’s most visited hotspot and tries to question the relationship that we hold with land and urban areas, especially when it comes to dealing with nature as a means of urbanization.”

Excellent job, Florent! I invite all of you to enjoy “Turning Old into New: The Old Port of Montreal”!

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I am a Senior Researcher at the University of Chester. My forthcoming book, A Town Called Asbestos: Environmental Change, Health, and Resilience in a Resource Community will be released by the University of British Columbia Press on 1 January 2016. My research interests are in transnational environmental health and contamination, and I always seek to blend historical research with public engagement.

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