ARIA Spotlight: Charlotte Pink

My ARIA project, under the supervision of Professor Kevin Manaugh, covers the conditions that produced 1960s-1970s urban renewal programs in Montreal, QC, and Vancouver, BC, and the adverse effects on the low-income communities of colour these programs targeted. This project's aim is to showcase, through geospatial data, the demographic changes that occurred in these neighbourhoods following freeway construction and the urban renewal projects they were a part of. Additionally, through discussions with scholars, literature review, and archival work, it aims to provide a nuanced portrait of the communities who lived in these neighbourhoods, how they were affected, and the discrimination and negligence of the City of Montreal and Vancouver towards these communities.

My responsibilities for this project were to conduct a literature review of existing scholarship on Hogan’s Alley and Little Burgundy and broader discussions of urban renewal; to collect census data from the years 1961, 1971, and 1986 to display changing variables in these neighbourhoods over time and to contrast the respective neighbourhoods with the averages of these variables in Montreal and Vancouver as a whole - as well as to display all of this data on ArcGIS Pro maps; to collect old documents and satellite images to explore the planning process from the ground-up, discover planning incentives, and to showcase, through mapping technology, what the old neighbourhoods looked like; finally, I had conversations with experts on Hogan’s Alley and Little Burgundy to provide further historical context.

I wanted to pursue this ARIA because I have always wanted to do a research project - especially one that was based on my academic interests. With this ARIA I was able to combine interests in both of my majors - Urban Studies and History. I have always been very passionate about urban planning, specifically topics related to neo-liberal planning structures and the postwar suburban boom, and this project let me dive deeper into this subject matter. This ARIA also allowed me to apply these interests to places that are very important to me: my hometown, Vancouver, and my current home, Montreal.

There were many learning objectives for this project, but two that stand out. The first was to gain a well-versed perspective on the history of urban renewal. The current scholarship is lacking when it comes to a discussion of Canadian urban renewal processes, being based mainly on American case studies. This lack of existing scholarship renders the stories of those affected by these programs invisible. I am glad that I was able to learn so much about these histories from individuals who have studied them in great depth to better understand the nuance and complexity of these stories. The second objective was to develop my mapping skills. I came into this experience with an amateur-to-moderate skill level on ArcGIS Pro and really wanted to expand this knowledge as it was something that really interested me. With this experience, I was able to gain important skills in ArcGIS software and am looking forward to advancing my mapping knowledge in the future.

This experience had many highlights. Throughout the project, learning many new skills on ArcGIS Pro always excited me, and the satisfaction of finishing a map is unbeatable. My favourite ‘mapping moment’ was georeferencing old satellite imagery onto new maps and creating a portrait of what the Little Burgundy and Hogan’s Alley looked like prior to urban renewal. Another highlight was visiting the McGill Rare Books and Special Collections Library to sift through old urban renewal files in Montreal.

This ARIA project did not come without challenges. First, it was very difficult to acquire shapefiles of old census tracts to utilize on ArcGIS Pro. After many emails and help from those at the Geographic Information Center, we were able to find them. As well, there were many logistical problems we ran into with the census data. It is hard to track census data over time, as the names and measurements of variables change. For example, much of the data in 1961 is divided by gender, while this is not done in subsequent years. We were able to solve this problem by narrowing down our variables and merging some data together when necessary.

This ARIA will help shape my future as it has allowed me to explore my academic passions in unique and versatile ways. I have discovered new passions for mapping and archival work and hope I can apply these skills to a future career.

A special thanks to the Arts Undergraduate Society for funding this ARIA, this fantastic experience could not have happened without them.

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