Dr. High holds a Canada Research Chair in Public History and is an associate professor at Concordia University in Montreal. High recently spoke with Beverley Tallon, Editorial Assistant of Canada’s History Magazine about his research and work with the Montreal Life Stories Project.
“It’s a project that's working with people in Montreal, who’ve escaped large-scale violence,” says High. “So [people] from Haiti, from Rwanda, from Cambodia, from 1940s Europe, who have made their way to Montreal.”
The goal of the Montreal Life Stories Project is to document the experiences of over 500 people who’ve been displaced by war, genocide, and other human rights violations. It plans to create cultural and historical documentation for the varied communities of Montreal, while preserving history that may have otherwise been lost.
At Concordia University’s Centre for Oral History & Digital Storytelling, High and his colleagues are able to use digital technology to record interviews with those who have suffered through mass violence and displacement.
“We ask interviewees, ‘You have five minutes, what story do you want to tell the world?’” says High.
“Then you hear a story that brings tears to your eyes or you're thinking ‘Wow, what a remarkable person’ and that to me is the beauty of social history, of storytelling and oral history,” High says.
High is interested in the relationship between the past and the present and how or why people remember things.
“You find the extraordinary in the ordinary,” High says.