This is the new name of the former Montreal History Center, built in the Quartier des spectacles, between the Cléopâtre cabaret and the Central restaurants, at the corner of Saint-Laurent Boulevard and Sainte-Catherine Street. A space dedicated to the history of Montreal, but above all to the – multiple – stories of Montrealers.
As soon as we enter the MEM – Center of Montreal Memories, the imagery of Montreal is displayed, in a decor that is both fun and friendly, which is inspired by the nomenclature of the City. “Public square”, “terrace”, “alley”, “belvedere”…
From the illuminated signs of businesses that no longer exist (like the 281 club or La Boîte Noire) to road signs (with a little game called: can we park here?), including the recreation of a convenience store, wall works or even the exhibition of multicolored balls by the landscape architect Claude Cormier (recently deceased), the visitor will quickly find himself on familiar ground.
All that’s missing are a few orange cones, which have become emblematic of the City, an artifact that Mayor Valérie Plante prefers to keep outside for the moment, but who knows? Maybe the cone will make its debut at the MEM soon…
Ms. Plante, who participated in the official opening ceremony late Thursday afternoon, expressed to La Presse her great joy at being present in the new home of this museum dedicated to the history of Montrealers. . Above all, she was delighted with the fact that the MEM is now in the heart of the Quartier des spectacles.
“There are several magnificent museums in Montreal,” said the mayor. But the concept of the Center for Montreal Memories is very contemporary. »
A citizen exhibition on Le Chaînon occupies part of the public space. A way to highlight the people who contributed to the sustainability of this women’s shelter founded 90 years ago. Video clips are made available to visitors. We can notably listen to the testimony of Lucie Morrissette, a woman who began volunteering for the organization at the age of 22.
Testimonials. We will hear this word often during the visit organized for the media. And for good reason. The MEM – Center for Montreal Memories, which will be officially opened to the public on October 6, has more than 700 audio and video testimonies from Montrealers, many excerpts of which are available to us.
A temporary exhibition (paid) entitled Detours, urban encounters presents 18 Montrealers who have atypical paths and who we discover through short videos. The scenography is by Pierre-Étienne Locas, well known in the theater community.
For example, we meet Maxime St-Denis, a fir tree seller from the Center-Sud, the dancer Lazylegz (Luca Patuelli), who lives with a muscular disease that affects his legs; the owner of the restaurant Les Îles en ville, Ginette Painchaud; artist Kama La Mackerel, who creates play spaces for trans or queer artists; or these two Italian sisters who grow fruit in their garden and who collaborate with the organization Les Fruits Forbiddens.
The head of culture and heritage on the executive committee of the City of Montreal, Ericka Alneus, present at the inauguration, particularly appreciated this segment of the MEM. “It’s an exhibition that confronts us with other realities,” she told us. I find that the MEM has something very moving, which celebrates the little things that make us this French-speaking cultural metropolis. People will smile, they will laugh, they will find each other and that will allow people from elsewhere to discover us. »
But the central element of the MEM is a permanent exhibition simply titled Montreal, which will attempt to answer two questions: “What is Montreal? » and “Who is Montreal? »
Unfortunately, this (paid) expo, which will have many interactive stations with audio and video content, will not be ready on October 6. The head of section, collections, exhibitions and programming, Catherine Charlebois, indicated that the firm with which the MEM worked, Halo Création, declared bankruptcy. The museum is therefore looking for a new supplier to complete the work, but the exhibition will not be open to the public for a few months.
La Presse was still able to enter the space dedicated to this exhibition divided into several sections.
For example, the first boxes of Catelli pasta, jars of spicy Manba peanut butter, Jehane Benoît’s recipe book, Steinberg paper bags and even newspaper archives.
Another fun section: objects from our collective memory that will be integrated into a “sound and light” show. We can see in particular the logo of the Montreal metro, a Montreal Canadiens jersey, a lunch box in the colors of Expo 67, a poster of the Belmont amusement park, Victor, the mascot of the Just for Laughs festival, a flag rainbow, etc. In short, so many artifacts that are part of the MEM’s collection of some 10,000 objects.
A selection of photographs representing emblematic places in the metropolis was made by Montrealers. We will see giant photos of these places parade around us, in a circular space. Finally, a huge sculptural work entitled The constellations of the seahorse was created by the artist Raphaëlle de Groot, who was inspired by the functioning of memory.