faculty, research

Virtual Museum explores history and language of Greek-Canadian immigrants

July 15, 2019

After World War II, the influx of Greek immigrants to Canada has had a profound impact on the country's ethnic diversity and its social and cultural landscape. A research group has documented the rich history and language of Greek-Canadian immigrants and has made it public in the form of a museum that is accessible anywhere at any time of the day. 

Sponsored by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, the Immigrec Project launched the Virtual Museum of Greek Immigration to Canada earlier this May. This project is the outcome of a two-year interdisciplinary research collaboration between McGill University, York University, Simon Fraser University (SFU), and the University of Patras in Greece. 

Through a variety of audio-visual material, the Virtual Museum offers an all-encompassing view into the Greek-Canadian immigrant experience told through personal stories and archival materials. 

Linguistics Associate Professor, Dr. Panayiotis Pappas, worked extensively on the Virtual Museum and is one of the project's leading investigators. He led the team that conducted interviews in Western Canada with Greek immigrants who came to Canada between 1945 and 1975, and oversaw the transcription of interviews from all provinces.

The transcripts and audio recordings from these interviews are a main feature of the Virtual Museum. They offer an opportunity for linguistic study, and tells the experience of Greek-Canadian immigrants in their own words. The Immigrec researchers also collected and digitized articles from Greek and Canadian newspapers, official documents of the period, personal photos and objects—all of which are easily accessible within the Virtual Museum. 

Visitors can explore the nine "rooms" inside the Virtual Museum covering aspects of the Greek-Canadian immigrant experience, with one room focusing notably on how the Greek language and its dialectal variaties have evolved in a language-contact situation.

The Virtual Museum project is part of a movement to redefine the museum experience by blending standard practice in linguistic and historical research with technologies within the digital humanities. 

This project also constitutes the first attempt to conduct a thorough and systematic study of language contact on the basis of data drawn from immigrants in Canada, and in an area geographically remote from Greece. 

Explore the Virtual Museum of Greek Immigration to Canada at virtual.immigrec.com

Photo Credit: Stavros Niarchos Foundation | The Virtual Museum of Greek Immigration to Canada