Action and Fun at The Stewart and The McCord

This article was updated on February 13, 2019.

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.

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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.

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Urban Tales

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.

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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.

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Current and upcoming exhibitions at the McCord

Temporary exhibitions this winter and spring also focus on First Nations Cultures, with Kent Monkman, Hannah Claus and an exhibition of Haida art.

The Kent Monkman – Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience exhibition showcases the McCord return of the internationally-acclaimed Canadian artist of Cree ancestry, who revisits Canadian history and the adoption of devastating genocidal policies. The Monkman exhibition runs from February 8 to May 5.

A multidisciplinary visual artist of Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) descent, Hannah Claus is the McCord’s current artist-in-residence, and she will exhibit her work from March 7 to August 11.

The McCord will also present its Haida art exhibition, featuring a selection of rare historical Haida objets d’art from the museum’s collections, on display from April 19 to October 27.

Other exhibitions are the popular children’s toys exhibition Treasures in the Attic, which runs up to March 17; the upcoming Canadian exclusive premiere of The Polaroid Project featuring the Polaroid photography of 100 of the most celebrated international artists of the 20th century, from June 14 to September 15; and a much-anticipated career retrospective of legendary Montréal fashion designer Jean-Claude Poitras, who left his mark on prêt-à-porter in Montréal and the rest of Canada over the course of four decades, from the 1970s to the 2000s (October 25 to April 13, 2020).

The McCord also presents the Griffintown exhibition (November 8, 2019 to April 5, 2020) by Montréal photographer Robert Walker, who documents the rapid transformation and gentrification of the city’s historic Griffintown district.

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Current and upcoming exhibitions at the Stewart

Paris on Display: 18th-Century Boutiques recreates 18th-century Parisian boutiques, giving us a historical peek at a consumer society in the making. The exhibitions runs until March 24.

The Stewart’s new exhibition Nights (May 23, 2019 to March 22, 2020) explores four distinct worlds of the night inspired by four original stories written by Québec authors Heather O’Neill, Éric Dupont, Dominique Demers and Simon Boulerice.

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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 (Wearing our Identity – The First Peoples Collection) 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.

For more information, visit musee-mccord.qc.ca and stewart-museum.org.

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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