Société des musées du Québec

Museums in our society: neighbours worth knowing! 

Claude Benoit, Museologist

Musée de l'Holocauste Montréal CC BY-NC-SA : Musée de l'Holocauste Montréal, photo : Vadim Daniel

Beacons illuminating our changing world and guardians of memory, the role of community museums is to meld local and regional history with the realities of regional geography. Firmly rooted in their milieu, they invite citizens to participate in the bettering of their communities. Meet these extraordinary neighbours!

Bearers of identity

Community museums belong to the citizens who visit and support them. They help visitors explore their roots and nourish their sense of belonging. 

In Saint-Joseph-de-Beauce, Musée Marius-Barbeau traces the paths of individuals in that part of the country. Who hasn’t heard about the proverbial entrepreneurial acumen for which this region is renowned? The exhibition, La Beauce : mythes et réalités, presents the perseverance and innovation of inhabitants of this location, in addition to the physical and sociohistorical advantages behind the development of the region. Much like a hall of fame, the museum is a testament to the unique nature of the area’s success that many people refer to as the “Beauce miracle.

Musée de société des Deux-Rives in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield in Montérégie brought together the former employees of Montreal Cottons, later renamed Dominion Textile, in the conceptualization and creation of its exhibition, MoCo: The Fabric of a Town. It offers a lively and vibrant exploration of milestones in the Canadian textile industry of the 20th century, thanks to the hundreds of photographs and artifacts that have been lent to the museum, and their accompanying stories. What a glowing example of social involvement and rallying of citizen knowledge for the benefit of the Salaberry-de-Valleyfield community!

Écomusée du fier monde
Kiosque des collections écomuséales
CC BY-NC-SA : Écomusée du fier monde

To honour working-class families of the Centre-Sud and their contribution to Montréal’s industrial revolution, the Écomusée du fier monde presents Citoyens – Hier, aujourd’hui, demain (only in french), a virtual exhibition that acquaints the viewer with the men and women who have marked the social history of a city and neighbourhood in continual transformation since the middle of the 19th century. These pioneers – militants, donors, volunteers and active participants in the community – have set an example of actions that support the concept of living in harmony.

Democratic & inclusive

Community museums invite citizens of all races, ethnic origins and creeds to express themselves freely, communicate their differences and open up to others. They are sanctuaries where one can go during troubling times, to find words, images and objects that provide explanations and comfort.

The Montreal Holocaust Museum creates a real space for dialogue by regularly organizing meetings with survivors, so visitors can hear their stories. Being able to talk with a victim of the Holocaust is a unique opportunity to better understand the consequences of complex histories on a human scale. The last step in the experience is Holocaust Life Stories, a virtual exhibition offering meetings with 14 Holocaust survivors and 1 rescuer. These are stories that urge us to reflect on the destruction caused by prejudice, racism and antisemitism.

Musée huron-wendat 03
CC BY-NC-SA / Photo : Musée huron-wendat

Near Québec City, in Wendake, the Huron-Wendat Museum has an immersive approach to teaching the history, arts and lifestyles of the Wendats and other First Nations groups. Sleep in a longhouse for the night to get a better idea of the Aboriginal sense of family and welcome hospitality. Or participate in a snowshoeing expedition with an Aboriginal guide in order to learn more about the advantages of this ancient form of transportation, and the Aboriginal peoples’ connection with nature. Accompanied by an interpreter from the community, visit various sites and collections to reveal the meanings of ceremonial objects, celebrations and rituals linked to North American First Nations peoples’ animistic beliefs, and to the fascinating world of the Wendats.

Take the time to look at the Memories of Immigrations website (only in french), a series of files in which texts, archival photos and stories convey the multiple facets – from the ancient to more recent past – of Montréal’s cultural diversity. Stories from new Montrealers remind us of the places, objects and people that contributed to their first experiences and the laying down of roots of the first generation and those to follow. Moreover, this living history is regularly enriched by observations from numerous collaborators, who ensure that perspectives on the adventures of immigration to Montréal are kept up to date. An initiative of the Centre d’histoire de Montréal!

Participatory & engaging

In a spirit of cooperation with the people they bring together and inspire, community museums take an active role in animation, and in the cultural, social and economic development of their communities.

Musée régional de Rimouski
La grande veillée au Musée régional de Rimouski
CC BY-NC-SA : Musée régional de Rimouski

In the same vein, Musée régional de Rimouski created, for the city’s 350th anniversary, the interdisciplinary citizen forum, 2046 Ta ville demain (only in french). Through thematic exhibitions and a variety of forms of artistic expression, such as drawing, photography and texts, it invited the inhabitants of the Bas-Saint-Laurent region to imagine the Rimouski of the future. In order to reflect on the concretization of their visions in the museum and to devise strategies for their promotion to various authorities, the Comité 2046 was implemented. An exemplary initiative to follow!