Digital projects add new ways to explore Montreal’s neighbourhoods

Digital projects add new ways to explore Montreal’s neighbourhoods

A sign announces the upcoming opening of Cite Memoire, and an audio visual walking tour of Old Montreal, Friday, April 21, 2017 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson.

MONTREAL — Audio guides and walking tours have always been popular ways to get to know a city, but thanks to smartphones, this time-honoured activity has been undergoing a digital shift.

Montreal, home to several universities and a vibrant artistic community, has a number of digital mapping projects and online or tech-enhanced tours that offer different ways for visitors to explore various neighbourhoods.

Many of these online projects include maps with points of interest arranged around a theme, whether it be oral history, literary works or vanishing industrial heritage.

The use of smartphones means many of these digital tours can now include video, audio, holograms, history and art, according to multimedia producer Philip Lichti.

“(Smartphones) allow you to deliver these different sorts of media to phones, and there’s also the technological capability of a phone to be able to situate where the listener is, not only in the geographic space but also the three-dimensional space,” Lichti said.

Montreal’s best-known digitally enhanced walking tour is undoubtedly Cite Memoire, which tells the story of Old Montreal through a series of giant multimedia projections screened onto the facades of nearby historical buildings.

On a smaller scale, one can find a number of interesting projects that tell the story of Montreal’s transforming neighbourhoods through the eyes of the people who live or grew up there.

Here is a small sample of the English-language offerings:

Cite Memoire (Montreal’s Old Port area)

Cite Memoire brings the city’s history to life through more than 20 tableaux that include video, stories, and music.

Visitors download a free app, available in four languages, which includes a map and GPS and allows them to hear the words and music to accompany each of the projections.

These cover a wide range of well-and-lesser-known historical milestones — ranging from the story of Montreal’s first executioner to that of Montreal Canadiens hockey great Maurice Richard.

Several new tableaux are being added to the $18-million circuit this year, including one that honours the 50-year anniversary of Expo 67.

“We always think of history of something old, something dusty,” said Michel Lemieux, the exhibit’s co-creator. “We wanted to tell these pieces of history in a way that is both spectacultar and intimate, because the voices, the characters who talk to us through our phones do it in a very intimate fashion.”

Cite Memoire’s projections begin at dusk each night beginning May 10. Visit http://www.montrealenhistoires.com/memory_city

Griffintown Tour — www.griffintowntour.com

Filmmaker and artist G. Scott MacLeod has created a virtual tour of 21 key historical sites in the rapidly gentrifying neighbourhood of Griffintown. For each location, there is a short film that combines animation, drawing, photos and film footage, narrated by a historian who recounts the site’s place in the history of what was once a working-class industrial neighbourhood populated mainly by Irish immigrants.

Mapping the Mosaic — http://mapping.montrealmosaic.com

This digital mapping project was created by the Quebec Anglophone Heritage Network in order to capture English-speaking Montrealers’ memories of their city. The map’s points of interest include not only official histories but also personal memories submitted by locals.

Canal: Walking the Post-Industrial Lachine Canal http://postindustrialmontreal.ca/audiowalks/canal-2013

This 2.5-kilometre walk, which Lichti helped to produce, covers the area around the Lachine Canal, including parts of the St-Henri and Griffintown neighbourhoods. Listeners hear the stories of workers and residents who evoke the area’s fast-vanishing industrial past.

Mile End Memories — http://memoire.mile-end.qc.ca/en/histoire-du-quartier/

The Mile End has an undeniable “cool” factor as well as an active local historical society that seeks to foster understanding of one of the city’s most creative artistic hubs. The website includes a detailed map of the area, historical capsules and portraits of prominent citizens, as well as details on its more conventional tours and activities.

Fictional Montreal — coming soon

This is a British Academy funded collaboration between Lichti and Ceri Morgan centred on Montreal’s literary history. Their soon-to-be launched digital map and website will feature audio recordings of authors reading excerpts from their works that are set in particular sites in the city.

Check http://storytelling.concordia.ca/ for details.

Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press
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