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art & culture

From heritage to modernity - how this museum keeps alive culture across the centuries

Madanmohan Rao
29th Jul 2018
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In this photo essay, we showcase the diverse range of art at Montreal’s McCord Museum, and share insights from the director and curators.

Marisa Portolese, 'In the studio with Notman'

PhotoSparks is a weekly feature from YourStory, with photographs that celebrate the spirit of creativity and innovation. In the earlier 225 posts, we featured an art festival, cartoon gallery. world music festivaltelecom expomillets fair, climate change expo, wildlife conference, startup festival, Diwali rangoli, and jazz festival.

Though he passed away in 1930, the vision of art historian and collector David Ross McCord live on in Montreal’s McCord Museum. Founded in 1921, the museum’s exhibits range from cultural artefacts of the First Peoples to modern works of contemporary photographers.

The museum attracts over 250,000 visitors a year, and its website has more than 135,000 images of its art works. The four floors of the museum draw on an extensive collection including 18,900 items of clothing and accessories, 16,400 ethnographic and archaeological objects, and 1.3 million photographs.

In addition to works from these collections, the current exhibition includes photographic portraits by Marissa Portolese, artist in residence at the museum. The decorative arts collection documents the material living environment, from furniture and porcelain to art and toys. Other exhibits in the dress and textiles collection span ceremonial accessories and daily clothing.

The section on indigenous cultures reflects the great diversity and complexity of Aboriginal cultures. It includes commentary on the adverse impact of tobacco and alcohol as well as identity politics based on race and colour, as shown in this photo essay.

“For over 95 years, the McCord Museum has been collecting objects, images and documents that bear tangible witness to the people, places and events that have marked Montreal, Quebec and Canada’s social history, from pre-colonial times to today,” explained museum director Suzanne Sauvage, in a chat with YourStory.

“The McCord Museum aims to create the ideal place where our memory comes alive every day. We want to welcome, introduce and connect with members of our multicultural and multigenerational society,” adds Suzanne. She defines success for the museum in terms of the quality experience of visitors, and their participation in educational programs and cultural activities.

The Museum also supports contemporary photographers in a number of ways. “We create solo and group shows connected to the McCord’s vision, which celebrates our past and present life in Montreal,” explained Hélène Samson, curator of the photography section. The collection includes daguerreotypes from the 1840s as well as modern digital images, and features 450,000 photographs from the Montreal studio founded in 1856 by William Notman.

“A very talented photographer, Notman had an eye for framing and knew how to emphasise his subjects whether he was shooting a portrait, taking a view of Montreal, or capturing a monument,” Hélène adds.

The museum also produces publications for some solo or group shows presented. “For example, both Marisa Portolese’s current exhibit and Michel Campeau’s recent show came with monographic publications,” says Hélène.

Now what have you done today to help preserve your culture and keep the traditions alive and relevant?

McCord Museum’s Boutique
Wearing our Identity. The First Peoples Collection (L); Museum (R)
Wearing our Identity. The First Peoples Collection
McCord Museum’s Boutique
McCord Museum’s Boutique
McCord Museum’s Boutique
Wearing our Identity. The First Peoples Collection (L); McCord Museum’s Boutique (R)
McCord Museum’s Boutique
Wearing our Identity. The First Peoples Collection (L); Balenciaga collection (R)
Wearing our Identity. The First Peoples Collection
Wearing our Identity. The First Peoples Collection
McCord Museum
Shalom Montreal, Stories and Contributions of the Jewish Community
Marisa Portolese, 'In the studio with Notman'
Marisa Portolese, 'In the studio with Notman'
Marisa Portolese, 'In the studio with Notman'
Marisa Portolese, 'In the studio with Notman'
Marisa Portolese, 'In the studio with Notman'
Marisa Portolese, 'In the studio with Notman'
Marisa Portolese, 'In the studio with Notman'

Got a creative photograph to share? Email us at PhotoSparks@YourStory.com!

See also the YourStory pocketbook ‘Proverbs and Quotes for Entrepreneurs: A World of Inspiration for Startups,’ accessible as apps for Apple and Android devices.

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