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PARC's Living Archive Project

Colour photo of 3 men looking at computer screen

Volunteer, unknown PARC member and Jim Booth, 2009

The Living Archive Project originated in the fall of 2008 as a storytelling project based at PARC. Members, staff and artists in the community work together to remember the past, understand the present, and dream for the future. They use art-based storytelling tools – writing, performance, photography and video.

The Living Archive Project is continuing a tradition of storytelling as a form of survival. We work to bring the documents of PARC’s past – photos, videos, written accounts – back into the hands of our members, and run video, performance and scrapbooking workshops to develop the tools for storying the present. This will become an accessible digital archive of PARC’s history for the membership; an archive that members can add new stories to as they make their own films, write their own histories and perform their own narratives.

People who have had contact with the psychiatric system or the (in)justice system – people who live in poverty or on the streets – often have their stories and their histories taken away from them and re-told by doctors, lawyers and cops. The Living Archive Project listens to and preserves the voices of the survivors of those systems. We think that everyone should have the right to tell their own stories in their own way.

The project was led by PARC staff person Griffin Epstein and came out of conversations she was having, one on one and in small groups, with members and some of the older staff. Griffin began coming into the drop-in on a volunteer basis between 5-10 hours a week to run groups and to initiate the video work. In April 2010, the Toronto Arts Council funded a small aspect of the project to hire two PARC members to continue doing archival work. In addition, two arts facilitators were hired: Shannon Quinn, who runs Poetry Night, and Jonathon Culp, a local filmmaker to run workshops that culminated in, respectively, a live performance in the drop-in and a movie screening after hours. 

The videos included here are from the first few years of the Living Archive Project. 

Survivors on Surviving is a film by Alice and John Rogers. They made it for Mad Pride, and it describes their story of surviving the psychiatric system and coming to a place of comfort with themselves.  

The Man on the Hill is a film by Glen Pappin. It tells the story of his encounter with the (in)justice system. 

Amy’s Fight is by Amy Ness. It is the account of her abuse by the psychiatric system. Amy has been fighting systemic discrimination and abuse since 2003, when she was psychiatrically incarcerated. She now describes herself at the time she made this movie as a “basket case,” from the drugs and injections that she was being given against her will.  

Alice’s Love Story is by Alice Rogers. It describes how Alice and her husband John met.