History of the Centre dhistoire de Montral


An original idea

Map published in the La Patrie newspaper on August 14, 1903

The idea behind the Centre dhistoire de Montral was born in the early 1980s out of a need to find ways to help the city interpret its history and heritage. It is supported by the Montral Cultural Development Agreement, which sparked the rebirth of Old Montral starting in 1979. The concept was to create an interpretation centre that would showcase the citys built heritage its true collection.

The centre was designed by art historians Raymond Montpetit and Sylvie Dufresne and educator Huguette Dussault. Sylvie Dufresne was the first director. At its beginnings, the CHM was managed by the Socit d'archologie et de numismatique de Montral, and became part of the citys network of maisons de la culture in 1987.


A fire station to the rescue of memory!

The fire station in 1931

In 1902, the city contracted architects Joseph Perrault and Simon Lesage to build the fire station at Place DYouville. The fire station was built in 1903-1904 and opened on December 26, 1904 as Fire Station No. 1. It wasnt the first fire station in Montral, nor did it act as headquarters, even though Caserne centrale de pompiers (Central Fire Station) is inscribed on the front of the building. It closed in 1972, at the same time that three other fire stations were made redundant.

In 1983, after 10 years of uncertainty and renovations that left only the buildings charming brick and stone exterior intact, the city and Qubecs Ministre des Affaires culturelles decided the building would house the new Centre dhistoire de Montral.

The building is distinctive because of its location on a public square, a rare thing in Montral, and its Queen Anne-inspired architecture.


From a sound and light show to an intimate experience

Old permanent exhibition (1991 to 2001)

The first permanent exhibition took the form of a sound and light show that extended through several rooms presenting iconic sites in Montral.

A new, permanent exhibition opened in May 1991, with realistic backdrops, interpretation signs, audiovisual supports and objects added to the display. Museum guides joined the administrative and technical staff under the leadership of a new director, Anne-Marie Collins.

New interpretive functions were added to the initial focus on exhibitions: collection, education, facilitation, publications, Web site. Jean-Franois Leclerc took over the helm of the CHM in 1996, when the western sector of the historic Old Montral area was enjoying a period of growth, with new businesses, restaurants and hotels, a renovated Place D'Youville and the Cit multimdia in the former Faubourg des Rcollets.


From interpretation centre to museum and activities centre

Beyond the Call of Duty. Chronicles of Domestic Work in Private Homes, 1920-2000

The permanent exhibition and museum spaces underwent another metamorphosis in 2001 to update the museums mission for the 21st century. Visitors could now discover enhanced content, a tour of five eras of Montrals history, historical figures and events that portrayed more vividly than ever the cultural diversity and histories that made Montral. As well, new welcome and information areas, a multi-purpose room and a new temporary exhibition area were built.

When the CHM reopened in September 2001, the temporary exhibition Beyond the Call of Duty: Chronicles of Domestic Work in Private Homes launched it into a period of exploration that continued for a decade. A number of projects were born from collaborations with artists, efforts to create more innovative activities and exhibitions, collaborations with defenders of heritage, the desire to protect immigrant history, to listen to the testimonials of Montrealers and to communicate their experiences to everyone. The CHM has gone beyond the walls of the museum and on the Web, in collaboration with heritage organizations, municipal departments and the boroughs, all across Montral.

The world has changed since 1983. So has the CHM while remaining loyal to its mission!