Canada’s oldest museum is among the most modern
Down the slope behind the City Hall of old Québec, attached to the 17th century Séminaire de Québec, stands a beautifully curved Québec Neoclassical façade housing the Musée de l’Amérique francophone. Ironically, given the building’s history, much of the Musée’s collection (acquired as early as 1806 when it was the museum of the seminary) is scientific in nature. Today however, the museum’s vision concerns itself with both religious and secular fields only inasmuch as they help it fulfill its modern mandate - interpreting the history of the Francophone peoples in North America. This they do with a style and unusual richness of atmosphere intended both to educate as well as to foster cultural pride.
After wandering past spooky reliquaries in the seminary chapel, you cross a courtyard and enter first into a beautifully integrated modern annex and then, surprisingly, into the dark. In this hushed, velvet darkness is the exhibit on the history of the seminary. Rich paintings, ceremonial paraphernalia and icons are picked out in careful spot lighting, creating a calm, reverential environment.
But, then you step into “ON THE ROAD: The Francophone Odyssey” where the darkness comes alive with a wholly immersive environment of illustrated ships, forts, streets and churches glowing bright blue on towering, black three dimensional surfaces. These monumental walls of light flow and sparkle with layered, projected videos that animate key areas to tell the stories of the Francophone in North America. Audio content is ever-present on permanent loops, further immersing the viewer.
As you pass into the modern era, standing three dimensional forms of semi-translucent fabric announce new chapters and everywhere you find little projected images, shapes and text on the floors and the walls. Highlights include schoolroom desks with inlaid video touch screens through which you browse life stories, a stand of translucent, acrylic ‘wheat’ and what can best be described as a storeroom of memories. This last one featured puzzling walls of blank containers with the occasional empty jar. Those jars suddenly glowed with the internally projected image of a face that then spoke to you, giving you their feelings of what it means to be Francophone in North America- truly visually astonishing.
This is not a family destination. Its content is presented and written to a standard that would bore children; it is a modern, refreshingly adult museum experience that does not underestimate the public. Add it to your list of Québec must-sees.
January 17, 2018 While in Oxford…
The meat of the traditional museum experience is found in Block B. Here you will see vintage radio sets, encrypting teletype machines, more Enigma machines and a working reproduction of the “Bombe.”
January 3, 2018 Decoding E-Money Is Here
Now that we are again back in our house, we’ve invited one of our wandering exhibitions home for a visit: Decoding E-Money.
December 19, 2017 Building the Wall
It’s basically an enormous digital tablet—the biggest one you’re likely to find anywhere in Canada.
December 6, 2017 The Price of VictoryWe opened the Museum doors at noon on Saturday, November 11, and to my amazement, more than 70 visitors flooded our entrance in the first hour.
November 23, 2017 The Bank of Canada Museum Goes International
Every year the conference of the International Federation of Finance Museums (IFFM) draws museum directors from five continents to a get-together aimed at sharing best-practices and keeping up with the latest trends in the world of financial museums. This year was the Bank’s first opportunity to attend the conference with a museum in fully-operational mode.
November 8, 2017 Harry Potter Was Here
Imagine your kids nagging you to visit a great cathedral or whining, “Kevin’s family got to go on a walking tour of Oxford, why can’t we?” Oddly enough, this scenario may not as far fetched as it sounds.