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Cité Mémoire – Projections of Montreal’s History

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Montreal was founded in 1642, which means that in 2017, the city is celebrating its 375th birthday. That’s a long stretch of history, and people can’t be expected to remember everything that’s happened. To help jog our memories, Montreal has created a multimedia exhibition called Cité Memoire (Memory City), transforming the old town into a living tribute to the past.

Cite Memoire Projections

Eighteen spots around Old Montreal have been selected for Cité Mémoire. At each one, there’s a projection, or “tableaux,” which brings a significant moment from Montreal’s history to life. In order to understand each clip, you have to download a free app that allows you to listen to the audio. And the projections don’t just play on a loop. Using the app, you’re the one who starts them.

Cite Memoire Projections

If it were just short movies projected against the sides of buildings, Cité Mémoire would be cool, but not all that memorable. However, each of the eighteen tableaux has been produced with the utmost artistry. They’re the work of some of Quebec’s most renowned multidisciplinary artists. The projections are poetic, haunting and beautiful, and each one makes perfect use of its individual location.

For example, the tableaux about the 1849 burning of the Parliament is found at the old firehouse in the Place d’Youville. The projection uses a walled-up window on the building to create the illusion of a concerned couple peering outside. You watch along with them as protesters gather in front of the building across the street, which has been illuminated to resemble the Parliament. As it burns, the effect is stunning.

Cite Memoire Projections

“Foundlings Quay,” located in a narrow alley off the Rue Saint Paul, is an artful tribute to the Grey Nuns who cared for so many of Montreal’s orphans. A series of babies in swaddling appear on the ground, while the nuns step out of the shadows on the side of the alley and against the far wall. Perhaps the most photographed tableaux is the “Face of Montreal”: a series of faces reciting poems, displayed across the trees at the old port.

The coolest facet of this project is the level of interaction required by the viewer. You could just show up and watch the pictures, but to get much out of Cité Mémoire, you must become a participant by downloading the app and wearing headphones. And when you’re the one to press “play” and set one of these tremendous projections into motion, you feel somehow more invested in it.

Cité Mémoire runs every evening after dusk, and for the next few years will be a permanent fixture in the Old Town. It’s rare that such a cool idea meets with such perfect execution.

Cité Mémoire – Website

Framed Montreal Photos

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May 28, 2016 at 8:24 pm Comments (2)

A Concise History of Montreal

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Five hundred years ago, Western civilization didn’t even know about the existence of Montreal Island. The Renaissance was just winding down in Europe, as the first wooden houses were being erected in a settlement called Ville-Marie. So, in order to evolve into a modern-day metropolis, Montreal has had to cram a lot into its short history. Here’s a brief rundown of the highlights.

History Montreal
2000 BC The first traces of human activity on the island of Montreal, including stone tools and evidence of campfires, date from about four thousand years ago. Before that, the island had been under the water level of the St. Lawrence River.
1142 The Iroquois form a powerful confederation. They and the Algonquin are the earliest settlers of Montreal, and each has a different name for it. The Iroquois call it Tiohtià:ke, while in the language of the Algonquin, the island is known as Moniang.
1535 The Island of Montreal is discovered for France by explorer Jacques Cartier, during his trip down the St. Lawrence River. He reports the presence of a large Iroquois settlement called Hochelaga at the base of Mont Royal.
1642 The first families arrive from France and establish a settlement called Ville-Marie (it’s uncertain when the name changed to Montreal). Although the Iroquois had abandoned the island by this time, the settlers are under constant attack from the Mohawk, who had been using it for hunting.
1701 Over 1300 Native Americans representing 40 tribes descend upon Montreal to sign a treaty known as the Great Peace and bring the Fur Wars to a close. The treaty is unique in relations with Native Americans, and most Canadian tribes consider it still active.
1760 As a result of the Seven Years War, France loses its North American territory. Montreal, along with Quebec, is ceded to the British. The island sees an upswing in immigration from Britain; by 1830, Anglophones outnumber French-speakers in Montreal.
1849 Tensions between the Crown and the independence movement finally boil over, as an angry band of rioters burns down parliament. Montreal’s short five-year period as the capital of Canada are over, and the government is moved to Ottawa. Alarmed English-speakers begin an exodus, and Montreal again becomes a majority Francophone city.
1920s Prohibition in the USA turns Montreal into a hot party-town. Nightclubs, casinos, bars, cabaret shows and strip joints gain prominence, as Montreal cuts loose to enjoy the roaring Twenties.
1960s Liberal leadership of Montreal brings about what has been called the city’s Quiet Revolution, transferring power to the people and secularizing society. The metro is introduced, utilities are nationalized, the welfare system is expanded, and the French-speaking population of the city begins to exert its influence.
1967 Montreal introduces itself to the world with the wildly successful Expo 67, which is timed to coincide with Canada’s centennial. Just nine years later, Montreal hosts the ’76 Summer Olympics, perhaps best remembered for the perfection of Romanian gymnast Nadia Com?neci.
1970 The Front de Libération du Québec sparks the October Crisis by assassinating Pierre Laporte, a member of Parliament, and kidnapping James Cross, a British diplomat. Canada sends special forces into Montreal, in its only domestic deployment of troops during peacetime, and order is soon restored.
1995 Quebec holds a nail-biting referendum on secession, which fails to pass by the slimmest of margins: just 50.58% of the province chooses to stick with Canada. The first referendum, in 1980, had been defeated by a more comfortable margin.
2016 and beyond… In December, Montreal celebrates its 375 birthday. The city has become a recognized leader in the arts, with a summer program full of events, including the world’s biggest jazz and comedy festivals. With its multilingual and cosmopolitan residents leading the way, Montreal seems certain to continue building on its status as one of North America’s most vibrant cities.
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April 23, 2016 at 9:34 pm Comments (0)

Le Centre d’histoire de Montréal

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If your thirst for history isn’t quenched after visiting the Archaeology and History Complex Pointe-à-Callière, then walk a few dozen meters down the Place d’Youville and into the Montreal History Center. I’m not sure we’ve visited another city which has two history museums in such close proximity to each other, let alone two as impressive as these.

Le Centre dHistorie de Montréal

The Pointe-à-Callière is the larger and more memorable of the two museums, but the History Center has a lot to recommend it as well, including the fact that it’s much cheaper. The museum occupies the old red-brick building of the Central Fire Station, which closed in 1972.

The permanent exhibition, found on the bottom floor, takes visitors on a well-organized tour through the centuries. Whereas the Pointe-à-Callière focused on the archaeology, here the emphasis is on the people of Montreal. A series of exhibits allows you to “meet” the different groups who have come to the island, from the Iroquois, English and French, to immigrants from Ireland and even a modern family from Chile.

Le Centre dHistorie de Montréal

We also liked the short videos that accompanied every epoch of Montreal’s history. Using maps and old photographs, these demonstrated in a chronological fashion how the city has grown from its earliest days behind fortified walls, to the installation of tramways and metro lines, and its eventual expansion over the entire island.

On its upper floors, the History Center hosts temporary exhibits, most of which are probably pretty good, if the one we saw is any indication. The exhibition titled “Scandal! Vice, Crime and Morality in Montreal, 1940-1960” introduced us to the city’s famously seedy side. Underground gay clubs, secret casinos, Mafia bosses gunned down in broad daylight and a notoriously corrupt police force? I want to hear more about this Montreal!

Location on our Map
Centre d’histoire de Montréal – Website

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April 17, 2016 at 10:48 pm Comment (1)

Museum of Archaeology and History Pointe-à-Callière

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Before doing anything else, newcomers to Montreal might want to check out the Archaeology and History Complex Pointe-à-Callière. Located at the site where Montreal was born, this museum takes visitors on a journey through the life of the city, from its earliest occupation into the present day.

Pointe-à-Callière Museum

The tour starts in a small auditorium overlooking a set of ruins. Pointe-à-Callière is more than just an archaeology museum; it’s also an archaeological site. Before the museum opened in 1992, scientists had spent a decade here, digging into the city’s past and revealing over six hundred years worth of artifacts. This is the spot where the first settlers came ashore about four hundred years ago, and where some of the city’s original buildings were erected.

We sat down in the theater, put headphones on, and spent the next twenty minutes watching a show which brought Montreal’s history to life, with scenes illuminated atop the exposed ruins. The story started centuries before the arrival of the Europeans, with the Iroquois and Algonquin settling the island. We learned about the founding of the French city, the struggles and successes with the native population, the switch from French to English dominion, the city’s experience during the Great Depression and the World Wars, and how Montreal has grown into the modern age.

Pointe-à-Callière Museum

Once the show had finished, we moved downstairs into the archaeological site to examine some of the ruins uncovered at the Pointe-à-Callière, including the Royal Customs House and the old Catholic Graveyard. We saw the remains of the Little Saint-Pierre River, which was swallowed up and used for sewage by the expanding city. And we learned about Montreal’s tumultuous relationship with the Iroquois, which came to an end in 1701 with the “Great Peace,” when a massive delegation of forty tribes declared a ceasefire with the settlers.

Other sections of the museum are more geared toward children, including a permanent exhibition about pirates, and sandboxes where kids can conduct their own archaeological digs. There are also wide-ranging temporary exhibits in the neighboring Mariners’ House. The show which happened to be there during our visit was dedicated to Agatha Christie. That might at first seem like an odd fit for an archaeology museum, but the exhibition concentrated on the famous author’s second marriage to Sir Max Mallowan, an archaeologist. With him, she traveled to the Middle East, and participated in excavations which had a great influence upon her writing.

Pointe-à-Callière Museum

After finishing with the exhibits in the Mariners’ House, we returned to the Éperon Building and ascended to the top floor, where we enjoyed views of the Old Port and Old Montreal from the outdoor platform. And then, having fully earned a big meal, we descended to the third floor and sat down at L’Arrivage, the museum’s restaurant. A fancier place with ultra-correct waiters and a reasonably-priced lunchtime menu, this is a popular place and requires a reservation.

Location on our Map
Archaeology and History Complex Pointe-à-Callière – Website

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April 14, 2016 at 1:15 pm Comments (0)
Cit Mmoire - Projections of Montreal's History Montreal was founded in 1642, which means that in 2017, the city is celebrating its 375th birthday. That's a long stretch of history, and people can't be expected to remember everything that's happened. To help jog our memories, Montreal has created a multimedia exhibition called Cité Memoire (Memory City), transforming the old town into a living tribute to the past.
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