On May 26, Montreal residents and visitors will have the opportunity to take advantage of the city’s 33rd annual Museums Day by visiting any of the 30 participating institutions for free. Organized by Musées Montréal, the diverse and colourful program showcases Montreal’s cultural vitality and features international artists and performers. Though many of the museums are located in the downtown area or Old Port, there are free shuttles and Bixi bicycles available to facilitate transportation between museums. Rather than returning to repetitious, old haunts such as the Biodome or the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, here are a few lesser-known options to consider, ranging from historical sites to performance artworks.
Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Archaeology and History Complex
Located on the site where Montreal was founded, Pointe-à-Callière features remarkable architectural ruins from the city’s past. The complex presents an archaeological history of Montreal: Walking over the glass floor in the permanent exhibition Where Montreal Began, visitors can view the remains of Fort Ville-Marie below. Additionally, the multimedia show Generations MTL provides visitors with an immersive sound and visual experience while watching a captivating narrative of the centuries of borrowing and exchanges that helped forge Montreal into the hub at the crossroads of Europe and North America.
Musée des maîtres et artisans du Québec
For a more hands-on museum experience, students should visit the Musée des maîtres et artisans du Québec. Crafting workshops afford the opportunity to create bent metal medallions and traditional woven fléché wristbands. The museum currently features two temporary exhibitions in collaboration with Festival Accès Asie, an Asian art festival: Exil – Peuples d’ici et d’ailleurs and Bridges of Hope. In Exil, artists of diverse cultural backgrounds explore the theme of exile as transition and change through different mediums such as installations, sculptures, drawings, and photographs. Meanwhile, Bridges of Hope features South Asian artists who examine the same these, but in the context of diaspora through visual works.
Fondation Phi pour l’art contemporain
Housed in two restored heritage buildings in Old Port, the Fondation Phi pour l’art contemporain is a must-visit for contemporary art lovers. ThoMusée des Hospitalières de l’Hôtel-Dieu de Montréalugh international in scope, its programming, events, and exhibitions work to respond to local contexts, as seen in their current featured exhibit, Yoko Ono’s GROWING FREEDOM. The exhibit is composed of two parts: The instructions of Yoko Ono, which puts visitors in the role of helping to complete the conceptual works on display, and The art of John and Yoko, which presents collaborative projects undertaken by the pair during the former’s life, including the infamous bed-in at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal. As a Museums Day exclusive, EMDE, a Malian musician and descendent of the Bwa people, will perform Mandingo-blues style music infused with jazz, funk, and reggae accents.
Musée des Hospitalières de l’Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal
To explore the history of the city’s first hospital, spend some time at the Musée des Hospitalières de l’Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal. The museum presents a rich heritage of care and compassion, ranging from exhibitions on the evolution of medicine to stories of Hospitallers’ work in health crises that struck Montreal in the past. A special exhibition, Jeanne Mance (1606-1673) From France to New France, focuses on the life of Jeanne Mance, Canada’s first lay nurse and founder of the Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal. Jeanne Mance sought out donations for the hospital, recruited nurses from France to help care for patients, and was the hospital’s administrator until her death. Two guided tours of the Jeanne Mance exhibition will be offered on Museums Day.