Action and Fun at The Stewart and The McCord
The Stewart Museum and the McCord Museum are two of Montreal’s most imaginative history museums, showcasing not just dynamic exhibitions, but fun and novel recreational activities for all ages, ranging from old-fashioned curling and snowshoeing at the Stewart, to morning yoga and live concerts in the outdoor Urban Forest at the McCord.
Fun for the children and kids-at-heart
The Stewart is housed in the Arsenal of the British military depot built by the British between 1820 and 1824 on Ile Sainte-Hélene. The grounds offer spectacular vistas, both of the military depot and the cityscape of Montréal visible across the Saint Lawrence River.
In wintertime, the Stewart offers snowshoeing as well as old-fashioned curling in its courtyard, plus visitors can discover and play board games, as well as games of skill and strategy, from the 16th to the 20th century in its Hall of Games.
The McCord’s hugely-popular and entertaining Urban Forest on pedestrianized Victoria Street downtown is open from late May to the end of September, and features such activities as morning yoga, public piano, concerts and lunch-hour food trucks. Indoors, the museum’s Café Bistro is an elegant and cool sanctuary with a refreshing light menu.
Other McCord outdoor activities include its terrific Golden Square Mile and Milton Parc tours, as well as self-guided tours via its award-winning Mtl Urban Museum iPhone application that can be downloaded for free from the App Store. The app uses augmented reality and superimposes historic 2D images onto present-day 3D views of 150 locations in the city, drawing on the 1.2 million vintage photos drawn from the McCord’s Notman Photographic Archives.
The glamourous Golden Square Mile was, of course, home to the luxurious Edwardian-style mansions of the Montreal elite who controlled over 85 per cent of the resources in Canada. To put it into perspective, today these Montrealers would all be multi-billionaires.
Superheroes and Soldiers
The Stewart’s summer day camps offer a variety of children’s activities for kids aged 4 to 12, including “Soldier For A Day” where kids dress in costume and are drilled in 18th-century military maneuvres for a mock battle!
Over at the McCord, bilingual summer day camps for children aged 5 to 10 run from July 2 to August 24. Lots of play, excursions and fun revolving around two themes: Budding Urban Planners and Create Your own Superhero.
Current and Upcoming Exhibitions
At the McCord, the permanent Wearing our Identity – The First Peoples Collection reflects museum founder David Ross McCord’s interest in the heritage of First Peoples. And in the Gabor Szilasi – The Art World in Montreal, 1960-1980 exhibition (which runs until April 29), Gabor Szilasi – one of Quebec’s best-known living photographers – chronicles the individuals who made up Montréal’s visual arts community, many of whom would shape the history of art in Canada.
New exhibitions at the McCord include Michel Campeau: Life Before Digital (February 16 to May 6) about photography before digital; and the North American premiere of the much-anticipated Victoria and Albert Museum blockbuster Balenciaga, Master of Couture fashion exhibition (June 15 to October 14).
At the Stewart, the upcoming Paris on Display: 18th-Century Boutiques exhibition (April 25, 2018, to March 24, 2019) showcases 18th century Parisian boutiques in three renowned commercial districts in the City of Light: la Cité, la Ville and l’Université. Some 300 artefacts from the Stewart Museum’s permanent collection evoke the shops and merchants of 18th century Paris, giving us a historical peak at a consumer society in the making.
Permanent Collections of The Stewart and The McCord
The Stewart – founded in 1955 by Montréal philanthropist David M. Stewart – is home to a superb collection of some 27,000 artifacts (including 4,000 pieces of weaponry) documenting the arrival of Europeans in the New World, their discoveries and daily life from the 16th century to today. The museum is housed in the eye-popping Arsenal of the British military depot built by the British between 1820 and 1824 on Ile Sainte-Hélene. The museum also features a four-storey steel and glass tower with lookout that offers visitors a view of the entire military depot and a panorama of Montréal.
The McCord was founded by another passionate collector, David Ross McCord, in 1921, and the goal of its massive archives – renowned for its photography, painting and fashion collections – is to explore the history and cultures of Canada. The collections range from David Ross McCord’s interest in First Peoples to Montréal’s pivotal role in the development of Canada from the early 18th century through the 21st.
Both the Stewart and the McCord merged their operations in 2013 to further grow both museums.
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.