Pointe-à-Callière

This past summer, I went to Canada for the extra long weekend that I had for the fourth of July. The decision to go away was quite last minute, so my usual travel buddy and I decided on Montreal since we’ve not been and figured it wouldn’t be as crowded since they don’t celebrate Independence Day that weekend. Turns out Canada Day is July 1st, so there was more people then we expected, but we had fun nevertheless. First stop…

Pointe-à-Callière, located in Montreal, Quebec
(Montreal Museum of Archaeology and History)

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Pointe-à-Callière is open on Tuesday through Friday from 10am to 5pm and on Saturday to Sunday from 11am to 5pm; the museum is closed on Mondays. Admission to the museum is 20CAD, which is approximately 16USD, however the rates will be increasing next year, so check out the museum website for the difference. Pointe-à-Callière is part of the Montreal Museum Pass, which gives one access to a variety of museums for 3 consecutive days. The pass is 75CAD without a transportation pass and 80CAD with the transportation pass. (I got the one with the transportation pass, which is about 65USD. It was worth it to me as the trains were quite frequent and I was staying outside of downtown Montreal, where many of the sites are.) The museum is accessible via driving, walking and public transportation. If one chooses to drive, note that the museum doesn’t have a parking lot, but there is paid parking available nearby. It’s possible to walk almost anywhere, so walking is always an option , but in this case, it’s best if one is already close by, or it will be a really long walk. As for public transportation, take the 2 train to Place-d’Armes Station and walk about 5 minutes to reach the museum or take the 715 bus and get off right in front of the museum.  Places to check out nearby include the Montreal History Center and the Notre Dame Basilica of Montreal or just wander around the area, it’s quite nice.

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Pointe-à-Callière  is a complex of buildings that are connected on the underground level, which is where most of the exhibits are located. Right after the ticket counter is the 18 minute multimedia show, “Yours Truly, Montreal”, that details the birth of Montreal from the ice age to the present. The show is a great introduction to the museum as it gives visitors an overview of Montreal’s origins; it is available in several languages, so don’t miss it. The first floor of the entrance building contains a temporary exhibit, “Hello, Montreal”, which is on view from February 17, 2017 to January 6, 2019. (I missed this exhibit as I was rather confused with the museum’s layout, so I’m not sure what the exhibit is about.) The underground level of the entrance building contains the permanent exhibit, “Crossroads Montreal”. The exhibit houses the ruins of Montreal’s first Catholic cemetery and the foundations of the Royal Insurance Building. Through these remains, the exhibit details how Montreal was originally an Iroquoian village that became a French missionary colony and eventually grew to become a great Canadian metropolis.

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Next up is the “Memory Collector”, which is a light installation projected onto the walls of a section of Montreal’s first collector sewer. The exhibit is really relaxing and impressive, and is a definite must see at the museum. Following is “Where Montreal Began”, which is located on the actual site of where Montreal was founded. The exhibit focuses on the French missionary settlement that was established to convert the natives to Christianity. Visitors can see the the original remains and artifacts from the settlement and learn about the settlers who left France to establish the new colony. In addition, the exhibit also contains some artifacts from the indigenous people. Of interest to me was a hieroglyphic wheel depicting the signatures that the indigenous people used to sign the Great Peace of Montreal, a peace treaty between the natives and the settlers.

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The “Building Montreal” exhibit highlights the development of Montreal from the 17th to the 19th century. The exhibit contains various artifacts from the time period, interactive games to engage visitors and a multimedia installation. Next up is “Pirates or privateers?”,  an exhibit about life aboard a privateer ship during the turn of the 18th century. Visitors can learn about the food that was eaten, the skills needed to sail a ship and the punishment that is given if they failed to obey an order from the ship’s captain. The exhibit contains navigational instruments, personal possessions, tools, weapons and loot. (The exhibit appears to be geared toward children, since the ship was filled with kids, so I didn’t go through it that thoroughly.)

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Last, but not least is the temporary exhibit, ” Amazonia. The Shaman and the Mind of the Forest”, which was on view from April 20, 2017 to October 22, 2017. The exhibit highlighted the mythology of the Amazonian societies and featured objects from over thirty ethnic groups in the Amazon basin, including blowpipes, bows and arrows, musical instruments, baskets and items required by shamans. The objects were located throughout two floors, so there was a lot to see.

My travel buddy and I spent about 3 hours at Pointe-à-Callière, but I missed one of the temporary exhibit, so maybe add another half hour to see that. However, as always, other visitors will take more or less time depending on their interests. Admission to the museum is worth it, since there is so much to see and do that one can actually spend the whole day there if they wanted to. (Definitely check out the Montreal Museum Pass if you are interested in the other museums, so that you can get the most for your money.) Pointe-à-Callière is good idea for a family day trip as there is something for everyone in the family to do. Anyone interested in history, Canadian history or specifically, the history of Montreal will enjoy a visit. If it’s your  first trip to Montreal, or if you’ve been several times already or even if you live there, learn and see where Montreal began at Pointe-à-Callière.

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