Montreal museums day

Museums day

Explore 43 Little-known Montréal Stories

“Once Upon a Time”: The Museum Rally for Montréal’s 375th anniversary

A black box come from afar… A beluga near Papineau Road… A talking-disc machine… Alfred Pellan does Shakespeare… So many intriguing and amazing slices of Montréal life to discover!  

On the 375th anniversary Montréal Museums Day, enjoy a rally of unusual objects displayed specially for the occasion at 43 Montréal museums.  Have fun trying to spot them – just look for the MTL Museums symbol near these curiosities from the city’s past.  

Don’t miss this very special occasion! On your own, with a partner or friends… On foot, by STM bus or metro, by BIXI or TÉO TAXI…

 

Contest – your favourite curiosity

During your rally, share your favourites with us! There are loads of great prizes to be won: a fabulous trip to Paris with TRANSAT Holidays, a one-year BIXI subscription, tickets to the TNM, and lots more.

For more information and to discover the stories of these 43 special objects, visit http://museesmontreal.org/en/museums-day. Follow the Montréal Museums Facebook page and Twitter feed to be sure not to miss anything!

#JDMM2017

2014. A mythic bird makes a spectacular comeback

Charles-René Bazinet laboured day and, often, night. For five months, members of the Cercles des jeunes naturalistes watched in fascination as the taxidermist worked at their request to restore a striking but timeworn specimen neglected since 1965 in the reserves of the Cercle’s mounted collections at the Montréal Botanical Garden. When they saw this gigantic bird that lived on Mauritius until it went extinct in the late 1600s, the young naturalists were once again convinced that the more we know about nature, the more we care and the more we want to preserve it.

                       

SEE IT AT THE MONTRÉAL BIODÔME…

 

1995. Litres and litres of water at the Biosphère

Unbeknownst to most Montrealers, a highly innovative and efficient eco-technology is quietly toiling away in their city. Just like the marsh at the Notre-Dame beach and the peat bog, the artificial marsh at the Biosphere is an ecological powerhouse. Since 1995, it has been removing most of the pollutants from thousands of litres of wastewater: suspended particles (85%), nitrates (95%), phosphates (99%) and bacteria (99.9%). Every day, several thousand litres of wastewater are pumped through this eco-friendly water purification station.

 

SEE IT AT THE BIOSPHÈRE…

 

1972. Citizens to the rescue!

There was very little time left before the wrecking ball was due to demolish the rowhouses along University, Sherbrooke, St. Lawrence and Pine, for Concordia Estates wanted to replace them with modern highrises. A low-income residential neighbourhood, a community and a whole architectural heritage were about to disappear forever. But for four years, a huge citizen movement mobilized with petitions, demonstrations, plans for a housing co-op and even a sit-in leading to the arrest of 56 protesters. Their vigilance and passion paid off, and in 1972, the Milton-Parc neighbourhood was returned to its residents.

 

SEE IT AT THE CANADIAN CENTRE FOR ARCHITECTURE…

 

May 2000. What’s a pataphysicist?

As he makes his way through the streets of Montréal, Florent Veilleux is always on the lookout for the unusual. His exceptionally excentric Laboratory of the Absurd on avenue Papineau is his refuge. It’s where he invented the world’s first electricity-to-water converter (the PTEEM) and the world’s first water-to-wind transformer (the PTEVM). Devoted to reusing his finds in environmentally friendly ways, he turned bits and pieces of Montréal into two inventions to mark the opening of the Montréal Science Centre. Veilleux is fascinated by exceptions and anomalies. He shares famous polymath Boris Vian’s philosophy: “I like to think about things that I don’t think other people think about.”

 

SEE IT AT THE MONTRÉAL SCIENCE CENTRE…

 

Circa 1870. Dupuis Frères, on St. Catherine Street East

Louis-Joseph Papineau returned his spectacles to their original case, bought at Dupuis Frères on St. Catherine Street East. The box read “Le Magasin du Peuple” (The People’s Store). The department store owned by the Dupuis brothers was an immediate hit with French-speaking shoppers when it opened in 1868. In the 20th century, in fact, the store used its French-Canadian identity in its marketing campaigns. Art enthusiast, history buff and former Cégep du Vieux-Montréal teacher Jean-Claude Planchart lovingly conserved the pince-nez and chain worn by Louis-Joseph Papineau, lawyer and political leader in the 1837–1838 Patriotes rebellion.

 

 

SEE IT AT THE CENTRE D’EXPOSITION DE L’UNIVERSITÉ DE MONTRÉAL…

1836. A people’s bank in Montréal

Montréal was a business city, and the language of business was mostly English. But people were starting to complain. Why should merchants be the only ones with access to credit? Why couldn’t ordinary people make investments, too? The Banque du Peuple was founded in Montréal in 1835 to meet this need, printing and circulating its own currency. This rare banknote from the first Canadian bank is a $5 bill bearing the likeness of Louis-Joseph Papineau. But competition was strong, and barely 60 years after opening its doors, the Banque du People went bankrupt and had to close.

 

 

SEE IT AT THE CENTRE D’EXPOSITION LA PRISON-DES-PATRIOTES…

1946. Pellan does Shakespeare

An avant-garde troupe decided to take on the challenge of mounting a Shakespearean classic. Directed by Father Émile Legault, Les Compagnons de Saint-Laurent would perform Le soir des rois (Twelfth Night). After some hesitation, Father Legault called on a young teacher at the École des Beaux-Arts, Alfred Pellan, to design the set. In one month the artist designed and produced furniture and accessories, sets, makeup and costumes, painting directly on them. The character of Feste, the fool, was unforgettable, with his rotating headgear reflecting his sadness, joy and fears. In 1968, the Théâtre du Nouveau Monde restaged the play, this time calling it La nuit des rois. The sets and costumes were equally daring and whimsical – no surprise since they were produced by professional studios directed by none other than Pellan himself. 

 

SEE IT AT THE LETHBRIDGE EXHIBITION CENTRE…

 

1926. Floods of tourists on rue Rachel Est

Hordes of curious visitors, most of them Americans, poured out of buses in the Plateau Mont-Royal neighbourhood and were welcomed by “Count” Philippe Adélard Nicole and his wife, Rose Dufresne, a French Canadian born in Lowell, Massachusetts. Upon the birth of their son, the couple opened their home, entirely furnished to suit their tiny stature, to tourists. Times and attitudes were different back then! The “Midgets Palace,” at 961 Rachel East, became one of the city’s most popular attractions, along with the wax museum and Notre-Dame Basilica. After Rose died, the Palace closed its doors in 1964. 

 

SEE IT AT THE CENTRE D’HISTOIRE DE MONTRÉAL…

 

May 11, 1776. Montréal, an American city?

Rue Notre-Dame. The United States Continental Army was headquartered in the Château Ramezay. Three delegates from the American Congress, including famous scientist and statesman Benjamin Franklin, were busy using threats and charm to convince French Canadians to abandon the English Crown. Thomas Walker, a Montréal fur merchant and Justice of the Peace, and a vigorous champion of the American Revolution, had drawn the wrath of the British authorities. On the day they left the city, the delegates signed a letter of safe conduct for Jane Hughes, Walker’s wife. It asked the Continental Army to conduct Benjamin Franklin’s lady friend safely across the border, if the American invaders withdrew.

 

SEE IT AT THE CHÂTEAU RAMEZAY…

 

1914. A black box crosses the Atlantic

Thanks to his connections to some leading figures in the movie-making world, Léo-Ernest Ouimet received a black box as a gift from the head of Pathé, the huge French production company. Ouimet fiddled with the crank-operated camera, converting it to produce a composite image. The 29-year old inventor, director and producer opened Montréal’s first permanent movie theatre in 1906, at the corner of Sainte-Catherine and Montcalm streets. With its 1,200 seats, his “Ouimetoscope” was a luxury venue, far removed from its very modest counterparts in Paris, London and New York. The visionary son of a Laval farmer helped to make Montréal a world centre of the seventh art.

 

SEE IT AT THE CINÉMATHÈQUE QUÉBÉCOISE – MUSÉE DU CINÉMA…

 

2013. A “power play” gift

The Power Points exhibition was a huge success. In its Canadian premiere at DHC/ART, artist Cory Arcangel showed how software and electronic gadgets quickly become outdated, and questioned the concept of authorship. And he had another surprise in store: to thank the technical crew from the Foundation for Contemporary Art, all huge Montréal Canadiens fans, Arcangel ordered a gift for them on eBay: a seat from the old Montreal Forum.

 

SEE IT AT THE DHC/FOUNDATION FOR CONTEMPORARY ART…

 

Summer 1948. Refrigerators made of wood and metal

The heat wave had been crushing the city for days. Everyone was waiting for a breath of cool air – and for the iceman, too. The block of ice in the wood and metal icebox, a heavy load for both the iceman and working-class residents’ wallets, had melted. Nothing left but a puddle. The food inside was about to spoil. When Claude Waters bought this icebox to add to his collection, it was easy for him to imagine the iceman struggling up the stairs. Living in the Centre-Sud neighbourhood, he could almost hear the man’s heavy footsteps and the metallic sound of the ice tongs as he dropped the blocks of ice into place.

 

SEE IT AT THE ÉCOMUSÉE DU FIER MONDE…

 

1912. Turning clay into money, in Pointe-Claire

North of Lakeside, in the area above the railway line east of Saint-Jean Street, investors spotted deposits of Trenton clay. They had not only a good eye, but also a winning recipe. The Montreal Terra Cotta Lumber Company turned out fireproof porous hollow terra cotta tiles, using sawdust from local farms as a binder for the clay. These tiles lined walls, floors and ceilings in homes and public buildings of all kinds in Pointe-Claire. When the company ran out of raw materials, after extracting 700,000 cubic metres of Trenton clay, the factory had to close in 1962. Today this former industrial site is a green space, a destination popular with birdwatchers and nature lovers. “Welcome to Terra Cotta Nature Park!” 

 

SEE IT AT THE STEWART HALL ART GALLERY…

 

2009. Masked guerillas

Guerilla Girls is an anonymous, radical collective of feminist American artists who attack the widespread and acknowledged misogyny that holds women back in society. Wearing gorilla masks to hide their faces, they use humour as a scalpel and create militant slogans inspired by advertising and activist language. In 2009, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the École polytechnique massacre, the Galerie de l’UQAM invited the collective to create a piece on the themes of violence and discrimination gainst women in society. Their Disturbing the Peace poster shows a graffiti-covered wall filled with sexist quotes, sayings and comments down through the ages.

 

SEE IT AT THE GALERIE DE L’UQAM…

 

1913. At the Westmount Arena

Mohawk artist Angus Montour carved a bowl with eagle-head handles to be sold at an event sponsored by the Canadian Handicrafts Guild at the Westmount Arena, at the corner of St. Catherine and Wood streets. The Guild filled the venue with backdrops of forest glades from eastern Canada, tents, men and women in traditional outfits, and live tableaux of weddings, hunting scenes, and the election of a chief. Founded by May Philips and Alice Peck, the Guild had already amassed a collection of work by Canadian craftspeople and Inuit and First Nations artists, while ensuring them a decent income.  

 

SEE IT AT THE CANADIAN GUILD OF CRAFTS…

 

1920. BONIS  “NEVER STOP”

This fur-sewing machine was aptly named: it never stopped, since there was too much demand! Up until the 1990s, over 6,000 workers toiled away every year, making Montréal the North American fur capital. Auctions in those days drew crowds of foreign buyers. Ferdinand Côté, who donated this machine, saw it reflect his life “in fur.” At age 16 he learned to cut pelts, follow a pattern, avoid cutting the fur, and assemble pelts with his General Electric BONIS “NEVER STOP” machine. Market competition and the animal rights movement led to the decline of the fur industry by the late 1980s.

 

SEE IT AT THE FUR TRADE AT LACHINE NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE…

 

8,000 years ago. Black bears in Verdun

Ten teeth are lined up near four shattered skulls. The remains of a meal or hunting trophies? Disturbingly, these bear skulls appear to have been intentionally broken. The archaeologists who uncovered them on the site of today’s Maison Nivard-De-Saint-Dizier assume that this was part of an Indigenous ritual conducted here sometime between 5,000 to 450 years ago, with the greatest respect for these ancestral figures.  Anyone who ate the brains of a bear, a symbol of strength and cunning, would have gained magic powers.

 

SEE IT AT THE MAISON NIVARD-DE-SAINT-DIZIER…

 

1957. Long before the telephone, even…

This abandoned 149 cm foghorn, an indispensable tool for decades, became a collector’s item. Long before the telephone and the internet, the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame used it almost daily to communicate with each other across the stretch of water separating their farms in Pointe-Saint-Charles and Île Saint-Paul. They used a simple code to signal that they needed a small or large boat to ferry supplies and passengers back and forth. That year the community stopped operating their farm on Île Saint-Paul – since aptly renamed Nuns’ Island.

 

SEE IT AT THE MAISON SAINT-GABRIEL MUSEUM & HISTORICAL SITE…

 

1943. Fleeing the ghetto, with indelible memories

As a very young girl, Thea crept through the streets of the Warsaw Ghetto, crammed with nearly 400,000 Jews. She was hungry and cold. In her arms she clutched a doll her father had found in an abandoned apartment in the ghetto. In 1943, Thea and her mother managed to escape. She came to Montréal in 1950, with other family members who had survived the Holocaust. Her children later painted the nails and lips of the doll that had never left her side. A touching reminder of far too many childhoods filled with fear – but also resilience.

 

SEE IT AT THE MONTRÉAL HOLOCAUST MUSEUM…

 

1992. Memory boxes

Behind a lattice gate, on a basement stairway landing, is an intriguing installation by Christian Boltanski: 336 cardboard boxes stacked on metal shelves. Each box bears a name, a photo, a smile, of one of the construction workers who built the new museum, at the corner of Jeanne-Mance and Sainte-Catherine. Boxes like treasure chests, since the artist wanted the workers to come and slip something they valued into their boxes. The piece raises questions about art and memory, collecting and archival practices that speak of forgetting and identity. 

 

SEE IT AT THE MUSÉE D’ART CONTEMPORAIN DE MONTRÉAL…

 

1976. Stop, thief!

At the closing ceremonies for the Montréal Olympic Games, as thousands of spectators cheered the athletes and Mayor Jean Drapeau, someone made off with the little hat of one of the elegant hostesses who had worn it since the Games opened. It was all the more valuable an item in that their uniforms had been created by four renowned Quebec designers: Michel Robichaud, Marielle Fleury, John Warden and Léo Chevalier. Jackets, blouses, skirts, capes, belts, hats, sandals, bracelets, handbags and even a pouch for their personal items and instruction manual. The more than 39 different styles distinguished each employee’s role, adding up to no fewer than 88,656 pieces of clothing! 

 

SEE IT AT THE FASHION MUSEUM…

 

1854. A few strands of hair as a memento

A widower with three children commissioned a piece of jewelry. Edward Martin Hopkins, the personal assistant to the Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company in Lachine, asked to have a few strands of his young wife’s hair discreetly set in the brooch – a common practice in the 19th century. This was a way of paying tribute to his deceased loved one, her aura and energy. The inscription is very touching: “In Memory of Ann Hopkins died 24 July 1854, aged 33”.

 

SEE IT AT THE MUSÉE DE LACHINE – MAIN PAVILION…

 

1940. A beer lover, in his own way

Michel Sainte-Marie was a collector of breweriana. For years, he traded, bought, saved and collected hundreds of beer-related objects, especially anything having to do with the Dawes Brewery. The company, which had flourished next to the Lachine Canal since 1826, made a Percheron the star of its marketing strategy. The black horse became well known both here and in the United States. Huge signs, advertisements, coasters … over 300 items in the Museum’s Dawes Black Horse collection illustrate the rise of the advertising industry in the 20th century. There are even matches in the shape of beer bottles!

Try it / Black Horse Ale, inc. / New York 17, NY.

 

SEE IT AT THE MUSÉE DE LACHINE – WAREHOUSE PAVILION…

 

1900. Shedding light on Freemasons

Philosophers? Philanthropists? Just who are they? Their codes and rituals are a closely guarded secret, while some of their members are among Montréal’s most influential figures. Protestants, Roman Catholics, Jews, Muslims… together they preach tolerance, brotherhood, progress and happiness here on Earth and in the hereafter, create an education system accessible to all, advocate universal suffrage, welcome foreigners and help the poor with open arms, fund research into childhood diseases… many members are printers, publishers and journalists. A little known fact: one of them found these bronze plates used to print the portrait of the association’s Grand Masters, in the annals of the Grand Lodge of Quebec.

 

SEE IT AT THE MUSÉE DE L’IMPRIMERIE…

 

1926. Music boxes for sale

Parents were concerned. The crowds flocking to see the Collège Notre-Dame porter in hopes of being healed might infect their children. So they convinced the authorities to act, and in 1904, the community built a small oratory across the street, near the orchard and vegetable gardens. There Brother André welcomed pilgrims by the hundreds. But even that building was soon too small. Architects Viau and Venne drew up plans for a monumental church perched on the north flank of Mount Royal. Music boxes made in France were the first fund-raiser for the construction of Saint Joseph's Oratory of Mount Royal.

 

SEE IT AT THE SAINT JOSEPH’S ORATORY MUSEUM…

 

November 10, 1949. A scandalous Family!

Early in the morning, neighbours summoned the police to the garden of the École d’art et de design, at 3430 Ontario Street. Officers soon struggled to cart off a shameless sculpture, 3 metres high and weighing 135 kg, by Robert Roussil. It was taken to Station No. 10 instead of being displayed in an exhibition of works by students and professors at the Museum of Fine Arts, and hidden under a tarpaulin. The artist, with his powerful hands and imposing physique, had carved a nude family, a man, woman and child. Censors were outraged and the newspapers had a field day. Roussil lost his teaching position at the Museum’s school as a result.

 

SEE IT AT THE MONTREAL MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS…

 

2000. Telescoping screws!

It seemed an impossible problem. Surgical fasteners screwed into bones had to be replaced as children grew, with all the attendant risks of complications. But there was a solution: Drs. François Fassier and Pierre Duval invented a titanium screw rod that lengthens along with the growing bone, and can extend up to 310 mm. The invention of the Fassier-Duval screw at the Shriners Hospital for Children in Montréal revolutionized pediatric orthopedic surgery worldwide.

 

SEE IT AT THE MUSEUM OF THE SHRINERS HOSPITAL FOR CHILDREN – CANADA

 

1669. The King’s seal

Three Hospitaller nuns from La Flèche, France, were escorted to the port of La Rochelle in 1659 by their congregation’s founder, Jérôme Le Royer de la Dauversière. There they embarked, off to assist Jeanne Mance at the Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal. Louis XIV approved of this small community of women in New France and in 1669 signed a decree along with a grant of 3,000 livres. The decree gave the congregation civil recognition and legal legitimacy, with the goal of ensuring the stable and solid permanent establishment of his dear and beloved Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph. The wax seal on the royal decree bears the Sun King’s fingerprint.

 

SEE IT AT THE MUSÉE DES HOSPITALIÈRES DE L’HÔTEL-DIEU…

 

1964. Sacred art by Daudelin

It was a family friend, Father F. M. Gagnon, who suggested that Charles Daudelin submit a proposal for the Saint-Jean church in Pointe-Saint-Charles. Working closely with architect Pierre Dionne, Daudelin set out to create functional pieces in an expressionist and esthetic style. The versatile artist, painter, jeweller and sculptor brought a new look to sacred art, evidenced in the details of his baptismal fonts, tabernacle-ostensoir, Pascal candelabra, altar candelabras, holy water font and aspergillum, sanctuary lamp and other pieces. His bronzes, with their organic textures, are stunning.

 

 

SEE IT AT THE MUSÉE DES MAÎTRES ET ARTISANS DU QUÉBEC…

 

1856. Red alert

The flames were in danger of spreading. It took not only sharp reflexes, but also plenty of muscle to keep the stream of water coming. Before fire hydrants were introduced, a team of several firefighters was needed to work this first manual fire pump used in Montréal. If you look closely, you can still see “Niagara Fire Co.” beneath the “Montreal 1856” inscription. The pump was given to a group of volunteer firefighters in Montréal by the Niagara Fire Co., an Ontario insurance company.

 

SEE IT AT THE MONTRÉAL FIREFIGHTERS' MUSEUM…

 

1900. Magic in Dorval

Friends and family gathered after dark in the yard of an affluent waterfront home. A makeshift screen made from a tarp or sheet was set up, and the images began to appear: holiday scenes, water sports, landscapes. Before the advent of slide projectors and the Lumière brothers’ cinema, people relied on magic lanterns. Just paint some glass plates, slip them between the lens and a light source – a lamp using kerosene, vegetable oil or even quicklime. And to think that such black boxes were long considered the work of sorcerers and charlatans!

 

SEE IT AT THE DORVAL MUSEUM OF LOCAL HISTORY AND HERITAGE…

 

1964.  Quebec rocks and rolls

Would the roof of the Forum withstand the noise? The decibels climbed as teenagers fainted: the Beatles were in town! Their talent, smiles and charm were definite assets. But they had another trick up their sleeve: the Echolette, a magnetic tape modulator for producing echo and distortion effects. The device, originally from Germany, became so popular that it was assembled and sold in Montréal, on rue Ontario, at the Boîte à musique. Quebec’s yéyé groups of the 1960s took it up it in a flash. With their Echolettes, the Jaguars, the Mégatones, the Versatiles and many other groups kept their young fans bopping non-stop. 

 

SEE IT AT THE MUSÉE DU ROCK’N’ROLL…

 

1975. Hidden splendours

Work begun at the initiative of David Macdonald Stewart convinced Mayor Jean Drapeau of the urgent need to restore the Château Dufresne. Les noces d’Orphée et d’Eurydice, by famous artist Guido Nincheri, deserved a new life.  The mural was an integral part of the architecture of the Dufresne brothers’ mansion, a work of art that drew on the poetry of human beauty, said the artist. But the Fathers of Holy Cross disagreed and had hidden the piece under a coat of latex paint when they lived in the Château. It was now time to reveal it.

 

SEE IT AT THE DUFRESNE-NINCHERI MUSEUM – THE CHÂTEAU…

 

1960. An unexplained presence

The studio was a real workshop. It was filled with scale maquettes of stained glass windows, stencils, evidence of the close collaboration between master artist Guido Nincheri and the artists and craftspeople who worked with him at every step along the way. If, as Nincheri liked to say, the 2,000 stained glass windows gracing churches throughout eastern Canada and the northern United States were both his catalogue and his showroom, there was one exception: a stained glass piece entitled Mère très pure is now the only one on display in the Nincheri Studio on rue Pie IX. It is said that its fortuitous presence there was the result of a misunderstanding regarding a contract. Did the intended purchaser run out of money? Or change his mind about what he wanted? The mystery remains.

 

SEE IT AT THE DUFRESNE-NINCHERI MUSEUM – THE STUDIO…

 

Late 19th century. A torture instrument?

When a dentist went from parish to parish seeking patients, in the countryside and remote regions, he would bring along along a rather curious folding chair like this one, setting it up in a public location or in the village doctor’s office. Paralyzed by fear or unable to afford it, many patients refused anaesthesia. The rough strips across the chair seat prevented them from sliding out, while the wrist straps kept them from involuntarily striking out at the “tooth puller.” A real instrument of torture? Almost.  The engineer and dentist team that Thomas Edison asked to design a more humane alternative to executions than hanging were inspired by it to invent the first electric chair.

 

SEE IT AT THE MUSÉE EUDORE-DUBEAU…

 

1847. Heartfelt thanks

Typhus was now a thing of the past in Montréal. As a token of thanks, Bishop Bourget renewed the tradition of pilgrimages to Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel. The Hospitallers were among the first (1848) to present the Chapel with an ex-voto heart. Up until the 1930s, pilgrims and other faithful also expressed their gratitude to the Virgin Mary by leaving copper, brass, silver or enamelled votive hearts, ordered from European catalogues or commissioned from Quebec silversmiths. They were sometimes engraved with the donor’s name, and decorated with semi-precious stones and mother of pearl. The “Sailors' Chapel” is now adorned with some fifty of these votive hearts.

 

SEE IT AT THE MARGUERITE BOURGEOYS MUSEUM…

 

February 1, 1915. Premiere of a watery predicament

At 525 Sainte-Catherine Ouest, the 1,100 seats in the Orpheum Theatre were full. It was the Montréal premiere of The Water Torture Cell, the most famous feat performed by Houdini, the master illusionist. His ankles locked in stocks, he was lowered head first into a glass tank filled with water. Seconds passed, then minutes. But finally, he confounded the skeptics. The McCord Museum has a rare example of the poster promoting this unforgettable escape act, presented in Montréal in a theatre that was part of the famous Orpheum Circuit, an American vaudeville theatre chain.

 

SEE IT AT THE McCORD MUSEUM…

 

1895. A beluga near Papineau Road?

While excavating at the Smith Brickyard, workers found a strange skull, 13 vertebrae and a number of ribs set in hard clay soil containing marine fossils. When the Redpath Museum was urgently called in, Director J.W. Dawson rushed to examine the mysterious remains. The experts all agreed: it was the skeleton of a young beluga. But it was unearthed near Papineau Road, 30 m above the current level of the St. Lawrence. The whale had apparently lived in the Champlain Sea, which covered the St. Lawrence lowlands some 10,000 to 15,000 years ago. Reassembled by Edward Ardley with the help of plumbing pipes and piano wire, the beluga skeleton today hangs in the Museum’s Dawson Gallery.

 

SEE IT AT THE REDPATH MUSEUM…

 

1944. Safe in the straw, in Normandy

On July 20, 1944, the Fusiliers Mont-Royal attacked the 12th SS Panzer, 1st Panzer and 711th Panzer Grenadier divisions near Caen, in Normandy.  Urged on by their Regiment’s iconic drums and bugles, the Canadian soldiers took part in this first Allied victory on the continent. Lieutenant-Colonel G. Gauvreau wanted to keep these musical instruments, which had previously been used in Valcartier, Halifax, Iceland and England, safe. When the Regiment arrived in the village of Rots, on its way to Holland, an abbot suggested that the precious instruments could be hidden in a hayloft for a few days. In 1953, several years after the war, Lieutenant Jean-Claude Turgeon of the 27th Canadian Brigade recovered the Regiment’s famous drums, encrusted in mud and straw. 

 

SEE IT AT THE REGIMENTAL MUSEUM OF LES FUSILIERS MONT-ROYAL…

 

1550. The lost village

Back then they called it Monte Real. This is the earliest reference to Mount Royal on a print, giving us an idea of what the Iroquoian village named Hochelaga might have looked like. The large village that inspired the founding of Montréal was described by Jacques Cartier after visiting it briefly on October 3, 1535. Although there is still much debate among historians and archaeologists as to its precise location, this woodcut and various archival documents show that the village was situated not far from Monte Real and was surrounded by fields of wheat.

 

SEE IT AT THE STEWART MUSEUM…

 

1967. Eastern Standard Time

This monumental timepiece has a base 4 metres long and a dial face 2.68 metres in diameter, stands 3.8 m tall and weighs 2.6 tonnes. The aluminum and steel sundial, painted by Dutch artist Herman J. van der Heide, originally sat in Chaboillez Square, in front of the Dow Planetarium. It was a gift from the citizens of Rotterdam to mark Montréal’s 325th anniversary, in 1967. Fortunately, the move to avenue Pierre-De Coubertin does not appear to have harmed the original piece of art: it still shows Eastern Standard Time with perfect accuracy. (102 mots)

 

SEE IT AT THE RIO TINTO ALCAN PLANETARIUM…

 

French Regime. Appearances can be deceiving

The archaeologists excavating the remains of Callière's Residence were intrigued. In summer 2007, they unearthed pieces of dark grey slate that appeared to be from the roof of the home built in 1688 for Montréal’s Governor, Louis-Hector de Callière. Yet when they looked closely at the fragments, the archaeologists saw that there were concentric lines etched into them, forming angles from a central point. Might it be a protractor of some kind? As they assembled the fragments, it became increasingly likely that this was could be the first sundial made in Montréal. A rare object, unlike anything found on other archaeological sites in Quebec to date.

 

SEE IT AT POINTE-À-CALLIÈRE, THE MONTRÉAL ARCHAEOLOGY AND HISTORY COMPLEX…

 

1901. A talking disc machine

The rumours were flying. Emile Berliner was to receive a posthumous Juno award, in 2000. A well-deserved prize if ever there was one: in 1901 alone, the inventor of the gramophone and the flat disc sold nearly two million records from his store at 2316 St. Catherine Street and by mail order across Canada. Customers were so enthralled that Berliner had a factory built in the Saint-Henri neighbourhood, at the corner of Lenoir and Saint-Antoine streets, to churn out his famous inventions. The self-taught businessman and philanthropist revolutionized the music industry – and the advertising world, too. The little dog, Nipper, listening to His Master’s Voice is the unforgettable symbol of the Berliner Gram-o-phone, later RCA Victor.

 

SEE IT AT THE MUSÉE DES ONDES EMILE BERLINER…