Pointe-à-Callière: Crossroads and Building Montréal, plus Snow
My final post about the Montréal museums I saw during my visit to the city in September 2015 (see also the Insectarium, the Biodôme, and “Lazy Love” at the Biodôme); here’s a look back at Pointe-à-Callière, Montreal’s Archeology and History Complex.
The Pointe-à-Callière complex is built on archeological sites that span the city’s history. Exploring the museum is very interesting, and a lot of fun; you take passageways, bridges, and stairs over and through the archeological remains. Like the museum building itself, which was built on pilings to protect the site, exhibition elements tread lightly among the artifacts, and visitors are asked repeatedly via signage not to touch the remains.
Like most places in Montréal, museum graphics are in French with English translations. I like the way the two languages are interwoven on the red lobby banner above.
The permanent exhibition in the basement, Crossroads Montréal, takes you through 1,000 years of the city’s remains, including the first Catholic cemetery (dating from 1643), and the foundation of the Royal Insurance Building (dating from 1861). Excavations continue and more exhibitions are planned to interpret what is unearthed.
On the one hand: very cool premise, and very cool space to explore. On the other…I had trouble getting and keeping my bearings. Perhaps because the graphics didn’t hold my attention? The ruins themselves were more intriguing than any block of text could ever be.
I would have liked more information directed at the museum “streakers” like myself: the people who move quickly through exhibitions, and only read titles and very selective [random] bits and pieces of labels. (On my best days, I can be a “stroller.”) Perhaps a printed guide map would have helped me to understand where I was within the museum and what I was looking at. Perhaps I should have taken a guided tour.
I did like the graphics’ integration into the museum’s building structure, particularly the ceilings, and the minimalist construction-site aesthetic of their structures. Artifact cases, too, were carefully integrated into the site.
Most graphics were rear-illuminated, which worked perfectly with the museum’s underground atmosphere.
Also belowground is the Building Montréal exhibition, where you’ll find the museum’s archeological crypt.
The photo above is of the vaulted stone tunnel built on the bed of the Saint-Pierre River. (See what I mean about the museum being fun to explore?)
Set into the floor of Building Montréal are more than a dozen dioramas that show the city at different points in time. I love this use of space, and the vantage point it gives visitors. (I wrote this post about exhibition flooring, seven years ago, and Bridget mentioned the Pointe-à-Callière in the comments. I finally saw it for myself!)
At the time, the museum had a temporary exhibition on view called Snow, a fun look at winter culture in Canada.
Note the snowflakes cut from the apron fronts of reader rails in the photo below.