Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Urban Research

Urban Space and Collective Memory: Analysing the Various Dimensions of the Production of Memory

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Urban Research

Urban Space and Collective Memory: Analysing the Various Dimensions of the Production of Memory

Article excerpt


La ville de Montreal, de meme que plusieurs autres grands centres urbains, a recemment vecu de changements importants au plan politique, economique et culturel qui l'ont force a se re-imager et a se re-imaginer. Dans ce contexte de transition, les facons dont les groupes sociaux se souviennent de la ville et de son histoire sont cruciales dans la construction d'identites culturelles. Cet article s'interesse a cinq perspectives analytiques portant sur le re-developement de l'espace urbain qui participent a la construction d'une analyse critique de la production de la memoire collective urbaine. Cette discussion critique est portee par l'etude du demenagement entre le Forum de Montreal et le nouveau Centre Molson en 1996, deux centres sportifs et de divertissement.

Mots-cles: Memoire collectif; Espaces urbaines; Culture populaire; Identite culturelle; Sport.


Montreal, along with many other large urban centers, has recently lived through political, economic and cultural transformations that have brought the city to re-image and re-imagine itself. In this context of change, how diverse social groups remember the history of the city is crucial in the historical process and therefore in the making of identities in various spaces. This article addresses five perspectives on the re-development and re-imaging of urban spaces in a way that will inform critical analysis of the production of urban collective memory. The various productions of memory are discussed through the case of the move from the old Montreal Forum to the new Molson Centre, two sport-entertainment venues. The move is interesting since the old Montreal Forum had built during 75 years profound symbolic, cultural and political ties with the local population.

Keywords: Collective Memory; Urban Spaces; Popular Culture; Cultural Identity; Sport.


Markers of memory are everywhere in the city: they are buried in language and dialect, found on commemorative plaques, on buildings and battlefields; etched into automobile license plates, and woven through the city's visual and literary cultures. Markers of memory are also powerfully encoded into popular cultural practices -- sports teams, local bands and theatre groups, and the buildings that have housed these activities. The markers of the specific and more universal history of Montreal, for example, find expression in different areas and neighborhoods, in buildings and monuments strategically built or 'placed', and at the same time invested with the symbolic and material life of the city. The workings of urban collective memories during the move from the Forum of Montreal to the Molson Centre, two sport and entertainment venues, which occurred in Montreal in 1996, expresses the recent re-construction and re-visiting of memories of Montreal in the context of economic, social, and cultural transformations o f this city and of other large urban centres.

The move from one sport and entertainment venue to another offers an interesting expression of the terrain of urban collective memory production. This particular case is interesting especially when we acknowledge the strong popular attachment (political, cultural, civic, and sporting) to the old venue. The Forum of Montreal built strong attachment with the city mainly through a professional hockey team Les Canadiens. The hockey team, founded as an all French-speaking team in 1909, has served to champion both Montreal's civic identity and Quebecois cultural identities for nearly a century.

It is sometimes said that in Quebec hockey is a kind of religion, and to the degree that this is true, the team the Montreal Canadiens have been the official church of hockey, and the Forum has been the game's temple, its sanctuary. Many remember the Maurice Richard riot of 1955, which has been said to be the turning point of the Quiet Revolution, (1) and the 24 Stanley Cups that the Canadiens won while playing in the Forum. …

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