Montréal museums for history buffs

by Marie-Ève Vallières

Often regarded as Canada’s cultural capital, Montréal doesn’t lack in the museum department. From Old Montréal’s mysterious streets to bustling downtown, the city boasts over 12 history museums, each focusing on different stretches of Montréal’s rich history.

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Montréal to the pointe

From its exact point of birth to today, Pointe-à-Callière unearths Montréal’s entire history. A renowned archaeological site, the Pointe-à-Callière Museum of Archaeology and History was built over Montréal’s birthplace, which is beautifully showcased in the museum’s permanent exhibition.

Meet Montréal’s gamechangers

Get up and personal with the people and events that changed the face of Montréal. The Centre d’histoire de Montréal focuses on the events and figures that shaped Montréal’s fascinating path; the Scandal! Vice, Crime and Morality in Montréal exhibition is dedicated to the city’s once thriving illegal cabarets.

A time capsule come to life

Quebec’s first historical monument and oldest museum gives a look inside Montrèal’s earliest days. Château Ramezay Museum, the prestigious 18th century residence originally built for Claude de Ramezay, then Governor of Montréal, was the first building to be recognized as a historical monument, and is the province’s oldest private history museum. Fun fact: Benjamin Franklin was a guest there in 1776.

Montréal by Montréal

The McCord Museum presents Montréal’s unique history as told by Montréal’s unforgettable people. Dedicated to the preservation, study and appreciation of Montréal’s history as recounted by its people, artists and communities living in the city’s past and present, the McCord Museum was founded in 1921 with David Ross McCord’s family collection; it now houses over 1,450,000 artefacts including more than 1 million photographs.

Dip your toe into local history

This public pool turned neighborhood museum dives deep into Montréal’s working class history. Housed inside a former public bath built in the 1920s, the Écomusée du fier monde history and community museum focuses on the Industrial Revolution and working-class citizens who once populated the neighbourhood.

Explore Cartier’s closets

Take a rare glimpse into the life – and private rooms – of one of Canada’s founding fathers. The Sir George-Étienne Cartier National Historic Site commemorates the accomplishments of Cartier, an important Father of Confederation. It is the only Victorian-style interior open to the public in Montréal.

Montréal from its baby steps

The pioneer settlers of New France commemorated and remembered in a bucolic home setting. Located in the lesser-known Pointe-Saint-Charles neighbourhood, the Maison Saint-Gabriel Museum and Historic Site is one of the finest remaining examples of New France architecture; it is dedicated to preserving the history and artefacts of the settlers who put down roots there in the mid-1600s.

Nursing Montréal into existence

Trace the history of Jeanne Mance, co-founder, evangelist, and healer to New France. The Musée des Hospitalières de l’Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal traces the history of nurse (and co-founder of Montréal) Jeanne Mance, and her mission to evangelize the Natives of New France and establish a hospital on the island of Montréal.

The European touch

Unearth the glories and growing pains of European influence over New France and North America. As one of Canada’s most prestigious cultural sites, the Musée Stewart commemorates the influence of European civilization on the 500-year history of New France and North America.

An ever-burning candle of remembrance

A museum dedicated to the commemoration and acknowledgment of the darkest days of the 20th century. Entirely dedicated to Holocaust education and awareness, the Montréal Holocaust Museum provides tools to fight racism and promote respect for diversity through several commemorative programs.

Go to jail!

If these walls could talk, they’d give up the history of Montréal’s Rebellions of the 1830s. Located within the walls of Montréal’s old prison, the Centre d’exposition La Prison-des-Patriotes’ guided visits recall the Rebellions of 1837-1838 through insightful and informative exhibitions.

2,400 years of history

Crowning an ancient promontory above the St. Lawrence River, this 300+-year-old church, which was constructed in 1771, sits atop a former First Nations encampment, and was built on the foundations of the first stone chapel erected in 1675. Religious heritage enthusiasts will love its beautiful interior as well as the one-of-a-kind artifacts in its 18th-century crypt, including the tomb of Marguerite Bourgeoys, Montréal’s first teacher.

Marie-Ève Vallières is a Montréal-based travel blogger, amateur photographer and translator.

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