ABOUT THE PROJECT
The Ontario Jewish Archives, Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre (OJA) has in its collection many remarkable photographs of Jewish business owners posing with pride in front of their shops in Kensington Market. To highlight these images and to share the stories of these long-closed stores that once thrived in this area, the OJA developed the concept of creating a site-specific exhibition using the current-day locations of the former Jewish business.
The OJA presented this concept in September 2018 to the class of master of museum studies students at the University of Toronto who, in their final year, take on a capstone exhibition project, working closely with cultural and heritage organizations around Toronto. Amy Intrator, Casarina Hocevar, Erica Chi, and Evelyn Feldman chose the OJA’s project.
For the first step in the project, the University of Toronto team, with the help of OJA archivists, searched the archives for as many of these photographs as they could find and matched them to firm addresses within Kensington Market. Some photographs hinted at remarkable stories, but were missing the information to be pinpointed on a map and had to be set aside.
Once they had made their selection of historic businesses, photographs, and addresses, the team did extensive research, mining the archives’ extensive records to learn more about the businesses’ owners, the families who ran them, and their stories. Some stories, such as the United Baker’s, contained a wealth of information; others, like Trachter’s Milk Store or Tasty Bagel Bakery, offered little information about past owners and their families, and finding even the smallest slivers of information took extensive digging.
Members of the team went into “the field” in Kensington Market to partner with modern businesses situated in the exact locations of these historical stores and display posters in their shop windows in May 2019, with additional business highlighted online.
Kensington Market’s stories extend from the neighbourhood’s historical Jewish businesses to its many diverse businesses today.
Project highlights include:
Scouring five decades of City of Toronto directories to discover Simon’s Book Store’s movement across five addresses from St. John’s Ward to Kensington Market in the 1920s, exhibiting a perfect reflection of the Jewish community’s broader migration in this period. Evelyn's highlight
Searching high and low to find out more about Nesker & Co., only to discover that this store in Kensington Market has been fictionalized in the novel A Sharp Intake of Breath. The novel discusses the details on the storefront window, as well as the store’s reputation for selling quality produce and poultry. Amy's highlight
Roaming the streets of Kensington Market, taking photographs, and determining which historical storefronts were feasible for this project. This drew attention to the Market’s evolving cultural landscape and the diversity of its contemporary community. Erica's highlight
Connecting the stories of different families through their shared memories. While searching through photographs, newspaper clippings, and journals, it became apparent just how close the Jewish community was in Kensington Market. Casarina's highlight