August 15, 2013

History buffs to the front of the line

By STEVEN HOWELL Press-Republican

---- — MONTREAL — Historical themes abound with new exhibits at Montreal’s specialty history museums.


Old Montreal’s Chateau Ramezay presents “Heart and Soul: Quebec Folk Art,” an eclectic, quirky collection of folk art presented by the prestigious Canadian Museum of Civilization. The museum offers wooden weather vanes, eggshell paintings and one-of-a-kind toys. Some 65 original artifacts are on display. Much of the collection comes from Nettie Covey Sharpe, a one-time Montreal South Shore St. Lambert resident and an avid collector of Canadiana and folk art. Her collection, considered one of the foremost collections of Quebecois folk art, was donated to the Canadian Museum of Civilization after her death in 2002. “Heart and Soul” continues through Sunday, Nov. 3.

Summer is also the perfect time for a stroll through the Governor’s Garden, which reflects a typical working city garden circa the 18th century. And new this year, more gardening inspiration can be found at the Pleasure Grounds. Located at Place De La Dauversiere between the Chateau Ramezay and Place Jacques Cartier just opposite City Hall, the Pleasure Grounds explore New France-style gardens from the 17th and 18th centuries. The garden visits are free and continue through Monday, Oct. 14, at 280 Notre Dame E. Adult admission costs $10. Call (514) 861-3708 or visit for details.

Just down the block, take a quick peek inside the Sir George-Etienne Cartier National Historic Site, which explores Montreal bourgeois life in a completely restored Old Montreal residence now maintained by Parks Canada. Cartier was a lawyer, politician and businessman whose career played a crucial role in Canadian history. The visit includes a stroll through an ornate salon, drawing room, dining room and kitchen. The space is an absolute bargain with adult admission costing $3.90. The site is at 458 Notre Dame St. E. Call (514) 283-2282 or visit to learn more.


On the opposite end of Old Montreal, Centre d’Histoire de Montreal, the Montreal History Center, presents a side of Mount Royal rarely explored with “The Hidden Face of the Mountain.” The exhibit looks at Mount Royal’s north side, which overlooks Mount Royal Cemetery and the University of Montreal. It continues through Sunday, April 13, 2014.

Also on display, the extended run of “Lost Neighborhoods” winds down on Sunday, Sept. 1. The exhibition explores the disappearance of entire neighborhoods in Montreal between 1950 and 1975 when the likes of Expo 67 and the 1976 Summer Olympics changed the map in more ways than one. 

The History Center is at 335 Place d’Youville. Adult admission costs $6. For questions, call (514) 872-3207 or visit


Located on Park Jean Drapeau, the Stewart Museum offers the impressive collection of David M. Stewart, a Montrealer of Scottish descent who was heir to the fortune built by Canadian tobacco-industry magnate Sir William C. Macdonald. The museum is housed in an actual fort along the St. Lawrence River just under the Jacques Cartier Bridge.

The collection is highlighted in “History and Memory,” the permanent exhibition that displays some 500 objects, including vintage maps and letters, navigational instruments and religious artifacts.

The new temporary exhibit, “20,000 Leagues Over Land and Sea: Exploring Six Centuries of Cartography,” explores the importance of cartography with more than 100 maps — world maps, continental maps, maps of countries, sea charts, polar maps, celestial maps and city maps — as well as navigational, astronomical and surveying instruments. It continues through Sunday, April 13, 2014.

The Stewart Museum is on St. Helen’s Island. Take the Jacques Cartier Bridge to the Park Jean Drapeau exit (about halfway over the bridge), and follow the signs. Adult admission costs $13. Call (514) 861-6701 or visit for more information.

Steven Howell is the author of Montreal Essential Guide, a Sutro Media iPhone travel app available at