The origins of Montréal come alive at Pointe-à-Callière

Richard Burnett

Rising above the very site where Montréal was founded on May 17, 1642, by Sieur Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve, Pointe-à-Callière is the city’s largest history museum. Now, 25 years after opening in 1992 to mark Montréal’s 350th birthday, Pointe-à-Callière: Montréal Archaeology and History Complex has opened a new pavilion to celebrate Montréal’s 375th anniversary, and has booked some not-to-be-missed temporary exhibitions.

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The only large-scale archaeology museum in Quebec and all of Canada

Pointe-à-Callière has been thrilling kids and adults alike with its state-of-the-art multimedia installations and historic antiquities for a quarter century. The unique museum complex is built atop Fort Ville-Marie – the original French colonial settlement of Montréal – and comprises archaeological sites (including Montréal’s first Catholic cemetery) and archaeological collections of more than a million objects, including artefacts from the First Nations of the Montreal region. Here, every stone speaks. To wander through the museum’s eye-popping underground archaeological sites is to step back into time.

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Where Montréal began

The museum complex’s new Fort Ville-Marie – Québecor Pavilion houses the new permanent exhibition Where Montréal Began which pays tribute to colonial explorer Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve, French nurse Jeanne Mance and the handful of men and women who accompanied them in 1642. These French settlers dreamed of founding a mission and converting the Indigenous people to Christianity to build a new society.

The exhibition’s tour route crosses a glass floor overlooking the remains of Fort Ville-Marie unearthed during archaeological digs conducted by the museum. “Thanks to some 15 years of research on the birthplace of Montréal, through (our) Archaeological Field School, we discovered the remains of the first settlement, Fort Ville-Marie,” says the Pointe-à-Callière Executive Director Francine Lelièvre.

Where Montréal Began opens to the public on May 27.

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Where the Waters Flow

Also opening on May 27 is the new permanent exhibition The Memory Collector, a multi-sensory sound and light installation projected onto the stone walls of a 110-metre section of a collector sewer originally built here between 1832 and 1838, and lauded as a feat of civil engineering.

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Archaeology from home and around the world

Pointe-à-Callière also presents three to four temporary exhibitions every year, showcasing great civilizations, history and heritage.

This year, the Museum presents Amazonia: The Shaman and the Mind of the Fores (showcasing the Amazon via 500 artefacts from the collections of the Musée d’ethnographie de Genève and Royal Museums of Art and History, Brussels) until October 22; the comprehensive exhibition Hello, Montréal! Bell's Historical Collections exploring the history of telephony (runs to January 7, 2018);  and the hotly-anticipated blockbuster exhibition Hockey, chronicling 100 years of the NHL. Hockey opens on November 24.

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Montréal Birthday gift for all visitors

Pointe-à-Callière: Montréal Museum of Archaeology and History is a guaranteed sure bet. To help to mark Montréal’s 375th birthday, the museum is offering all visitors free admission until June 20.

Richard Burnett

Richard Burnett, blogger

Richard “Bugs” Burnett is a Canadian freelance writer, editor, journalist, blogger and columnist for alt-weeklies, mainstream and LGBTQ publications. Bugs also knows Montréal like a drag queen knows a cosmetics counter.

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