The Hellenic Heritage Foundation Greek Canadian Archives at York University (HHF GCA) is an initiative designed to collect, preserve, and create resources relating to the history of Hellenism in Canada.

The history of the HHF GCA

The HHF GCA grew out of the Greek Canadian History Project (GCHP)—a joint initiative launched by Athanasios Gekas and Christopher Grafos in 2012. The GHCP’s mission was to preserve and facilitate access to historical materials illuminating aspects of Greek immigrants’ varied experiences in Canada.

Over the next decade, Gekas, Grafos, Kali Petropoulos (the GCHP’s Public Relations Coordinator), and dozens of community volunteers organized events, exhibitions, and historical walks. The project’s success inspired further investment. On September 22, 2021, York University announced that it had received a $1.4-million gift from the Hellenic Heritage Foundation to aid in preserving, cataloguing, digitizing, and teaching Greek Canadian history; hence, the GCHP changed its name to HHF GCA.

The archives’ physical collections at the Clara Thomas Archives have recently been complemented by the HHF GCA digital portal, which hosts digitized and born-digital materials. The portal contains oral history interviews associated with various research projects, serving as a platform for researchers to explore resources illuminating Greek Canadians’ varied experiences, histories, and perspectives. These projects  include Greeks in Canada: A Digital Public History, Childhood Narratives of Greek Canadians from the 1940s, and Film as Mediator: Cultivating a Cypriot Canadian Community Audiovisual Media Archive. The interviews collected for these projects are a valuable resource for preserving the community’s cultural heritage and sharing it with future generations.

With the support of its colleagues and partners, the HHF GCA have also embarked on a digitization campaign, actively identifying, collecting, and digitizing photos, audio and video recordings, and newspapers. These digitized materials will be integrated into the digital portal, guiding researchers toward related content.

HHF GCA marks milestones

Thanks to the commitment of its donors, partners, and community, the HHF GCA physical collection has seen remarkable growth over the past year. Hundreds of donated Greek books have been catalogued into the Hellenic Heritage and Michael Vitopoulos Collections within Omni, York libraries’ search tool. The arrangement and description of the George Papadatos fonds has also been completed; this collection offers critical insight into the history of Toronto’s Greek community from the late 1960s through the early 1980s. The team of the Archives have also begun processing a donation from John Sotos, which features materials describing the activities of several Greek Canadian and Canadian ethnocultural organizations active from the 1980s to the present. The accessioning of these materials by the HHF GCA’s  partners in the Clara Thomas Archives and Special Collections ensures that these memories and artifacts remain safeguarded for future generations.

Moreover, in response to the increasing need for accessibility, the HHF GCA has amplified its digitization efforts, digitizing, among elese, dozens of recordings of discussions, lectures, and performances from prominent twentieth-century Greek voices given as part of the University of Toronto’s Modern Greek Program, from 1971 to 1991.

The most notable addition was, of course, the above mentioned digital portal. In the coming years, the HHF GCA will add to their repository of interviews, complementing them with digitized records, photographs, newspapers, and recordings, making it easier than ever to research Greek Canadian history, continuing their efforts to tell more nuanced stories of our shared past, highlighting our triumphs, blemishes, and contradictions.

Read also via Greek News Agenda: Angela Ralli on the dynamics of the Greek language in Canada and the IMMIGREC research project; Rethinking Greece | Alexander Kitroeff: “Greek Diaspora has affected the history of host countries around the world”