Dr. Barbara Lorenzkowski was born in Germany where she studied journalism at the TU Dortmund and history at the Ruhr-University Bochum. She worked for a wide range of print media and broadcasting institutions, graduating in 1995 with a Diploma in Journalism (MA equivalent). A one-year “adventure” as an international student at the University of Ottawa turned into a life-long love for the study of history. She went on to obtain her MA in History (1996) and PhD in History (2002), both from the University of Ottawa, winning the Pierre Laberge Prize for an outstanding dissertation in the humanities. She found her voice as a teacher at the University of Nipissing, where she was hired in 2002, and joined Concordia’s Department of History in 2008.
Dr. Lorenzkowski’s first monograph Sounds of Ethnicity: Listening to German North America, 1850-1914 (published by University of Manitoba Press in 2010) listened to the popular musical life that flourished in both Canada and the United States and strained to hear the languages spoken in German North America. While grounded in the aural texture of migrants’ lives in earlier centuries and based on extensive archival research, this exercise in historical eavesdropping foreshadowed her reinvention as an oral historian of the history of childhood and youth. Her FQRSC-funded book project The Children’s War is a large-scale oral history project on children’s sensuous and emotional life-worlds in Atlantic Canada during the Second World War.
As both an oral historian and a teacher, Dr. Lorenzkowski seeks to explore the ways in which global processes of migration, displacement, and violence have shaped small people’s lives in outsized ways. Her inter-disciplinary collection Small Stories of War: Children, Youth, and Conflict in Canada and Beyond (published by McGill-Queen’s University in 2023), co-edited with Kristine Alexander and Andrew Burtch, prominently features oral histories of childhood and youth. Whereas most archival collections, in Canada as elsewhere, privilege and preserve the perspectives and voices of adults, and some historians remain profoundly ambivalent about memory’s capacity to reconstruct the interior worlds of childhood, this collection acknowledges the multiple temporalities that are woven into the fabric of memory and explores the dynamics of inter-generational memory and storytelling.
This project, much like her book manuscript The Children’s War, bears the imprint of COHDS in ways too numerous to count: in its insistence on emplaced storytelling and sharing authority; its joyful spirit of exploration; its capacity to foster interdisciplinary conversations; and its commitment to mobilize knowledge to link past and present in the pursuit of a peaceful and more just world. A long-standing core member of COHDS, who served as the Interim Co-Director in 2016-17 and was subsequently elected to the Administrative Board (2017-20), Dr. Lorenzkowski is honoured to serve as the lead Co-Director, to work closely with the vibrant community of COHDS affiliates, and to tend to the very special place that is COHDS.