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Simply Montréal: Glimpses of a Unique City
Montreal in the Spotlight at the McCord Museum

Montreal, Thursday, June 18, 1998 — Today, the McCord Museum is inaugurating Simply Montréal: Glimpses of a Unique City, a brand new exhibition designed to plunge visitors of all ages into the very heart of the rich and varied experience offered by our city.

Simply Montréal, the most important exhibition mounted by the McCord since the institution's re-opening in 1992, focuses on four main themes: the climate (wintering), the community (meeting), the economy (prospering) and leisure time (enjoying). Some 600 objects and 200 photographs from the McCord's celebrated collection will be on view, including an array of First Nations objects; a selection of photographs by the renowned Canadian photographer William Notman; a variety of sports equipment and charming toys; and a collection of dresses and outfits worn in Montreal on all sorts of occasions. The exhibition has been produced by Carol Pauzé, Project Manager, and Andrea Hauenchild, Guest Curator.

“This exhibition takes an impressionistic look at Montreal life and lifestyles from the 17th century to the present,” explains the Museum's Executive Director Dr. Victoria Dickenson. “Simply Montréal is a rich collage of objects and images from the McCord's unparalleled collections, offering visitors — Montrealers and tourists, adults and children alike — a unique opportunity to explore the roots of what makes Montreal so unique, so utterly and simply itself.”

Wintering: From Snowshoes to the Metro
Entitled Wintering, the exhibition's first section explores one of most Montrealers' favourite subjects — the weather, especially winter weather. We learn how, during the 17th and 18th centuries, Native peoples and Europeans influenced one another in their efforts to create houses and clothing well suited to the climate. As visitors move through this section, they also discover how the geographic location of this northern city, with its bitterly cold winters and steamy hot, almost tropical summers, has played a role in shaping the characters of its inhabitants. Juxtaposing Montreal past and Montreal present, the section explores the following themes: clothing that is warm and weatherproof, from the age-old parka to the very latest in microfibre; methods of transport, from the aboriginal snowshoe to the metro; the development of the armada of marvellous machines now used for clearing snow from the city's streets; and the unique domestic architecture that evolved to counter the cold.

Meeting: People from Here, There and Everywhere
The second section, which focuses on the theme of community and the Meeting between peoples, explains how Montreal, because of its economic potential, has long been a centre for immigration. Inhabited first by Aboriginal peoples, the Montreal region soon became the adopted home of a population with French and British roots; their ranks were later swelled, in successive waves of immigration, by citizens from a multitude of other cultures. This section illustrates how the interests of the different groups who encountered one another on this shared territory gave rise to tensions and conflicts, but also to alliances and understandings. Illustrating Montreal's cultural diversity, a profusion of mementoes that belong or once belonged to Montrealers — born-and-bred or adoptive — are on display. Something to note: a number of well-known personalities whose origins lie elsewhere, including Kim Yaroshevskaya and Alain Stanké, responded to the McCord's appeal and graciously agreed to lend valued personal mementoes. Young visitors will also enjoy playing with the fruit and vegetables in this section's market stall, which serves as a reminder that the city's public markets have always been important points of contact, influence and intercultural exchange.

Prospering: City of Promise, Land of Trade
The entrance to the third section, entitled Prospering, is dominated by a birch bark canoe — once the principal method of transport in the fur trade, which had such a decisive influence on Montreal's early economy. This section, which explores the city's economic development, begins by reminding visitors of Montreal's strategic geographic location. Situated on the banks of the St. Lawrence, at the intersection of three river routes, Montreal was already part of a major trade network long before the arrival of Europeans. During the French regime, the city flourished thanks to the fur trade. Following England's conquest of New France, the activities of such major firms as the Hudson's Bay Company and the North West Company ensured the prosperity of a number of merchants and led to the birth of some of Montreal's great fortunes. A number of objects on view help bring this vibrant period in the city's history to life, among them trade silver, glass beads, a beaver hat and trade guns. Other subjects explored in the section are the development of the city as a major commercial and financial centre, the improvement of its harbour facilities to stimulate commerce, the construction of the railroad and the Victoria Bridge, the appearance of major retail outlets along Sainte-Catherine Street in the late 19th century, and Montreal's recent renaissance as a centre for new communications technologies.

Enjoying: Montreal, Capital of Leisure and Entertainment
Montrealers have always been known for their fun-loving approach to life, and this fourth section, entitled Enjoying, takes a look at their passion for such diversions as team sports, skating carnivals and parties of all kinds. We learn, for example, how the city's more prosperous citizens were once keen on equestrian and field sports. The most sophisticated followed the hunt, while the rest flocked to Montreal's select clubs, there to stylishly wield the cricket bat, the golf club and the polo mallet. We're also shown how in working-class neighbourhoods sporting events consisted largely of demonstrations of strength and endurance, such as the ever-popular arm-wrestling. There is focus, too, on Montrealers' love of winter sports, including ice hockey, snowshoeing and skating. Sumptuous evening gowns, fans, top hats, scarves, cigarette cases and dance programs conjure up the frequent parties held during the late 19th century in the magnificent mansions of the Golden Square Mile. Visitors are given a glimpse of Montreal, the cultural hub, renowned today for its numerous outdoor concerts and festivals that bring glitter to the city year after year.

Tour Program
To ensure that visitors of all ages get the very most from the exhibition Simply Montréal: Glimpses of a Unique City, the McCord's Education Department has prepared a comprehensive and original tour program, specially designed to satisfy the broadest tastes. Participants may choose from two thematic tours and two independent tours coupled with a discovery game. Children are also invited to take part in a selection of workshop-tours, which include Manituminaki: The Power of Glass Beads and Totem, Totem. Reservations are required for these activities.

Wanda Palma
(514) 398-7100, extension 229

Annie Daoust
(514) 398-7100, extension 251

The Museum acknowledges the support of Canadian Heritage's Museums Assistance Program, the Ministère de la Culture et des Communications and the Conseil des arts de la Communauté urbaine de Montréal.