Afro-Montreal Archives Collaboration

Since 2022, three independent non-profit heritage organizations in Montreal have been collaborating on the digitization and presentation of rare and important Afro-Montreal archives.

The CIDIHCA (Centre international de documentation et d’information haïtienne, caribéenne et afro-canadienne) has been dedicated to preserving and promoting the history and cultural heritage of Haiti and of the Haitian diaspora in Canada and around the world since the early 1980s. ARCMTL has a similar dual mandate of promoting and preserving its milieu, which focuses on independent artists from Montreal as well as general Montreal history and ephemera. The third organization in the collaboration is the Afromusée, led by Guy Mushagalusa Chigoho, who for some 20 years has promoted African and Afro-Canadian arts and culture in Montreal. Since 2021, the Afromusée has been located in a beautiful ground-floor space at 533 Ontario E. which hosts regular exhibits featuring Afrocanadian and African art, as well as a diverse range of public programming and activities.

The three organizations are very similar in size and structure, and they also share a great passion for their respective missions.

Louis Rastelli, ARCMTL (left), Frantz Voltaire, CIDIHCA (center), Guy Mushagalusa, Afromuseum (right), 2023

They succeeded in having their collaboration be supported by the Library and Archives Canada Documentary Heritage Communities Programme, which helped fund the staffing, equipment and services needed to digitize a variety of different documents, including unique and fragile audio and audio-visual materials.

The material that was digitized included formats such as home movies on super 8mm and 8mm film, videos of conferences, concerts and events on Betacam, VHS and Umatic videocassettes from the 1970s and 1980s, to Haitian and Afro-Montreal music on vinyl records, audio cassettes, photos, vintage magazines and event posters. Some 150 compact discs and audio cassettes featuring Montreal and Quebec hip-hop music from the 1980s to 2000s were also digitized.

The digitization of all this rare and unique material will help improve public access to it for years to come, and will also help preserve the fragile original documents for the future.

Some of the material from the project has already been made available to the public online as part of a new collection of Afro-Canadian periodicals, available on the Internet Archive here.

A series of exhibits and presentations at the Afromusée were held in 2023 and 2024 where more of this material was presented to the public. Thanks to the support of the City of Montreal’s Patrimoine Montréalais dans les quartiers Programme, ARCMTL and Afromusée also have presented some of this material alongside oral histories and interviews with important figures in Afro-Montreal arts and culture on the new website, nightsofmontreal.com .

This website features an interactive map of places important to Afro-Montreal arts, culture and nightlife. On its blog section, you can read transcripts in both English and French of several presentations and live interviews that took place at the Afromusée.

These collaborations have helped raise awareness of the rich history of Montreal and Quebec hip-hop music. Here are some pictures and archival materials relating to this hip-hop scene, some fifty years after the birth of this musical style in New York’s suburbs.

Highlights also included presentations by Quebec Francophone soul and disco legend Pierre Perpall and by English-language soul and rhythm and blues legend Skipper Dean. Here are some pictures of their presentations, as well as some of their personal archives that were digitized via the project.

Much more material will continue to be added to the Nights of Montreal website by the collaborators to this project.

Lastly, the three partner organizations will be celebrating the fruits of their collaboration on May 11, 2024 during a free pop-up exhibit from 2 to 5 pm at the Afromusée, as part of the Montreal History Festival – Festival d’Histoire de Montréal.

You can find out more about that event on this blog post or on its Facebook event page.

The research teams and technicians will be on hand for this event, and will be happy to share stories about the collaboration and to show off some of the amazing archives to members of the public. We hope to see you there!!

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