The Museum houses many in situ remains and archaeological collections from digs conducted on Montréal's birthplace, and has developed an overall theme of Montréal as a national and international crossroads. This theme inspires its permanent and temporary exhibitions, and above all the development of its collections.
One of the Museum’s mandates is to acquire collections relating to the history of Montréal, from prehistory to the present, and to conserve, manage and display them. The Museum also acquires items related to its temporary exhibitions.
The Museum acquires items by purchasing them or having them made, or through donations or bequests. If you wish to donate objects related to the history of Montréal, please contact Marie-Ève Bertrand, Collections Archivist, at 514-872-9310 or email@example.com.
Digs carried out by the city of Montréal since 1980 in Old Montréal, more specifically on the sites that are now part of the Museum, have unearthed hundreds of thousands of objects. The Museum draws on these extensive collections to explain Montréal’s past.
Objects and fragments of different materials illustrate all the periods of occupancy of the site:
- prehistoric Native period (4,000 years ago until the first contacts with Europeans)
- contact period between Natives and Europeans (16th century)
- neo-French period (16th to mid-18th century)
- British period (mid-18th to mid-19th century)
- contemporary period (North American, Canadian and Quebec, mid-19th and the entire 20th century)
These are Native artifacts, trade goods, household and industrial items, and bones, shells and various samples.
They were made in North America, Europe (France, England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, Holland, Italy, Spain) and even Asia (China and Japan) and used in Montréal.
These witnesses to different times and places represent many aspects of Montrealers’ daily lives:
- general tools
- weapons and ammunition
- sewing tools
- objects related to means of transportation
- objects related to means of communication
- objects related to food
- objects for conservation and storage
- objects related to medication
- parts of clothing, accessories and finery
- objects for bodily care and hygiene
- construction materials
- hardware and architectural objects
- trade goods
- religious and ritual objects
- objects related to games and entertainment
Over the years, the Museum has also acquired archaeological collections through excavations conducted on property it owns, in particular 214 Place d'Youville, the birthplace of Montréal, where the Archaeological Field School operates in partnership with the Université de Montréal.
This is a very interesting collection, which helps us to document the birth of Fort Ville-Marie, the time of Callière's Residence and later periods of occupancy. Part of the archaeological collections is displayed at different places in the Museum and especially in the Where Montréal Was Born permanent exhibition in the remains.
The in situ remains
The archaeological collections also include also incorporate in situ remains.
There are over 2,135 m² of archaeological remains in the Museum, consisting of masonry, wood and soil. As visitors progress through the Museum they encounter the remains of Montréal’s first Catholic cemetery, the architectural remains of the Royal Insurance Company Building (1861), parts of the William collector sewer (a major civil engineering structure dating from 1838), and the archaeological crypt with the architectural remains of historic buildings, revealing over 600 years of history and a wall from the city’s fortifications, dating from the 18th century. In addition there are the remains of Fort Ville-Marie and Callière's Residence and subsequent periods right up to the present, which have been gradually unearthed since 1998 on the 214 place d’Youville site.
To complement the archaeological data and construct coherent historical content that gives an overview of Montréal’s history on the overall theme of Montréal as a national and international crossroads, the Museum also purchases and manufactures items and receives them through donations and bequests. To date Pointe-à-Callière has accumulated an ethnohistorical collection of nearly 950 objects. Some are displayed in the Museum, while others are kept in the reserve or at the Documentation Centre.
Rare books and old prints, plans and maps
In the past few years, the Museum has been collecting rare books and other historic documents. Pointe-à-Callière chooses illustrated 18th- and 19th-century editions relating to Montréal’s history or on the themes of its temporary exhibitions. Along with books, the Museum’s collection includes plans and maps, engravings, original photographs, works of art, postcards, prints, magazines, etc.
For more information, consult the inventory of historic documents.
Google Art Project
Certain objects from Pointe-à-Callière’s collections can now be viewed on the Google Art Project website. This portal allows users to view galleries of artwork and artefacts from the world’s major museums.
In keeping with its educational mission, the Museum has also accumulated a research and education collection, consisting of archaeological and ethnohistorical objects and reproductions (decors, costumes, accessories) used for the Museum’s educational and cultural activities.
It is now possible to consult the Museum’s archaeological and ethnohistorical collections online. The Info-Muse network of the Société des musées québécois and Artefacts Canada of the Canadian Heritage Information Network recently added over 1,000 data records digitized by Pointe-à-Callière.
To consult our collections :
Pointe-à-Callière’s collections were made available online thanks to financial support under the Industry Canada Francommunautés virtuelles program and the Canadian Culture Online program of the Department of Canadian Heritage.