Toronto Ward Museum gears up for annual Block by Block exhibition10 November 2020 / by Sam Dharmasena (author)
Toronto Ward Museum’s Block by Block Exhibition begins later this week, giving Torontonians a closer look at the neighbourhoods of Regent Park, Parkdale, Victoria Park and Agincourt. This year's exhibit, in the midst of a pandemic, will be delivered in new formats but their mission remains the same. The participatory, multimedia program engages young people in the collection and interpretation of oral histories in collaboration with Indigenous and newcomer community members. Aashna Thakkar, the museum’s marketing and outreach coordinator, tells CJRU about the initiative’s poster exhibition, virtual event series and her experience as a participant.
The Toronto Ward Museum (TWM) is a museum without a physical location, which has been advantageous as they navigate the pandemic. Instead of inviting communities into a museum venue, their museum work lives right in the community. Thakkar explains that TWM is on a mission to fill the gaps in Toronto’s heritage sector by taking a refreshing approach to museum work, whose stories are told, and what is worth putting on display.
“These are stories of immigration, Indigenous experiences, and mostly racialized communities. These are the stories that people don’t necessarily find important or historical… but they’re so important to the ways our city is built and continues to grow,” Thakkar says.
Block by Block began as a national exhibition in 2017, preserving the stories from Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. In recent years they’ve shifted their focus to four neighbourhoods in Toronto that Thakkar says are undergoing significant redevelopment. TWM’s team of researcher/curators conduct interviews with residents of Regent Park, Parkdale, Victoria Park and Agincourt. Interviews have wrapped up now and TWM will be exhibiting these stories online and in the communities they’ve been documenting. The in-person component is a poster exhibition displaying 24 posters around the four neighbourhoods involved in the initiative.
The online component is a series of virtual events that allow residents to engage in conversation and hear from residents in real-time. On Nov. 19, Thakkar is moderating a zoom panel that explores community care across Toronto and the ongoing effects of gentrification, housing, mental health and much more. On Nov. 26, the Block by Block 2020 research and curation team will host a discussion around TWM’s collaborative approach to oral history research and exhibition creation. They will be posing the question, what does community-engaged museum curation look like? The final online event on Nov. 28 is a zoom party featuring live music, spoken word performances, a live trivia game and original video stories.
For more information on Toronto Ward Museum, visit their website.
To hear about Thakkar’s experience as a researcher/curator for the Regent Park neighbourhood and more about the upcoming Block by Block exhibition, listen to the interview below.