Where Montréal Was Born

The Where Montréal Was Born permanent exhibition takes visitors to the heart of an authentic archaeological site: Montréal’s birthplace. The unusual underground route covering six centuries of history, from the times when Natives camped here to the present day, is an emotion-packed look at the very essence of a city born over 360 years ago. Step back in time, as you follow a trail marked with archaeological remains and artifacts revealing the different incarnations of this site over the centuries. See Montréal’s first Catholic cemetery (1643-1654), brought to light during extensive archaeological digs in 1989. It is the oldest man-made structure directly associated with the city’s founding.

Your tour starts in the remains of the Royal Insurance Building (1861-1951), which housed Montréal’s Customs office from 1871 to 1917. Architect Dan Hanganu drew his inspiration for the Museum’s triangular footprint from that building. Discover the legendary Royal Insurance building, explore its fascinating history and have fun with an interactive module set amidst the remains.

Throughout these remains, the visitor learns about the history of this site from the Amerindian period to the 20th century and discovers the first catholic cemetery (1643). Families will also find spaces reserved especially for them where they can learn about the ways of life of the St. Lawrence Iroquoians and the various roles of women, men, and children, as well as on tool-making, games, and the recipe for sagamite.

Along the way, you’ll cross through an imposing vaulted stone tunnel, where the Little Saint-Pierre River once flowed, and see how it was converted into a collector sewer from 1832-1838. In the archaeological crypt, don’t miss the huge interactive fresco that portrays the expansion of Montréal’s harbour in the 1840s. Nearby, in addition to five superb models showing how the city’s core evolved over the centuries, you’ll find the Market Day projection. Relive a market day in 1750, with virtual characters in scenes recalling daily life as it once played out here in the town’s main public square.

Where Montréal Was Born promises a truly unique experience!

This exhibition was produced with the financial support of the Ministère de la Culture et des Communications du Québec and the City of Montréal, under the Agreement on the cultural development of Montréal and of the Montreal Port Authority. It was updated in 2008-2010 under the program to renew permanent exhibitions offered by the Ministère de la Culture, des Communications et de la Condition féminine du Québec. The International Historic Heritage Foundation (Canada), the Historica Foundation and the Pointe-à-Callière Foundation also contributed financially.