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MARGUERITE VOLANT:
PASSION, HISTORY AND FICTION

WHEN TV VISITS THE MUSEUM

Montreal, November 14, 1996 — On Friday, November 15, after eight weeks in the TV spotlight, the Marguerite Volant series becomes the focus of an exhibition at the McCord Museum, which runs until October 19, 1997. Entitled Marguerite Volant: Passion, History and Fiction, the exhibition describes life on a large Quebec estate around 1763 — a dramatic and emotional period marked by the transition from the French to the English regime.

Produced by the McCord in collaboration with Cité-Amérique, makers of the television series, the exhibition focuses on the lavish sets, costumes and accessories used during filming. As visitors examine this view of a crucial period in our history, they will become increasingly aware of the close links that exist between history and fiction. They will also appreciate the vital and unique partnership that developed between researchers, museologists and TV producers in their efforts to lend authenticity to the series. Says Claude Benoit, the Museum's Executive Director: "The Marguerite Volant television series has provided the McCord Museum with a marvellous opportunity to explore history and highlight life as it was lived around the time of the Conquest. With the knowledge acquired through study of the objects we guard so preciously, it is possible to reconstruct and interpret the past, and thus to nourish imagination and help in the creation of works of historical fiction."

To bring the past to life and make it real to visitors, seven scenes based on sets designed for the TV series have been reconstructed — we see the seigneur's office, the kitchen and the master bedroom of the Volant manor house, the masked ball held at the home of Madame Beaubassin, Antoine de Courval's salon, a military encampment and a trading post. For each scene, a key character — seigneur Claude Volant, his daughter Marguerite, the housekeeper Jeanne or Captain James Elliot Chase — actually speaks, recounting details of their lives at the time when Canada became the "Province of Quebec." Costumes worn by all the series' main protagonists will also be on view, including the splendid ball gowns worn by Marguerite Volant and Eugénie Beaubassin. To help visitors identify the various scenes, excerpts from the TV series are being shown on monitors located in each display.

Since historical fact must be the basis for any work of historical fiction, Cité-Amérique's producers and researchers held frequent consultations with the McCord's museologists in order to check information — ensuring the series' veracity — and gain inspiration in creating the period objects and costumes required. For example, the elaborate ladies' hairstyles seen during the masked ball were based on an 18th-century miniature belonging to the McCord, and a number of artifacts in the Museum's collection were copied especially for the series.

To complete this portrait of an era, about 120 objects from the Museum's collection will be on view alongside those created for the TV show, allowing visitors to observe for themselves the remarkable attention to detail and concern for authenticity that guided the production team. Several key Museum objects that served as inspiration to the television producers stand out: a painted beechwood chair in the Louis XV style signed "Père Gourdin" (Jean Gourdin became a master cabinetmaker in 1737); an evening gown worn by Mary Chaloner in 1763 when she married Colonel John Hale in Guiseborough, England (the groom had served under James Wolfe at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham); an extremely rare first state of the map by Gilles Robert de Vaugondy showing the northern part of America (published in 1755 in M. Robert's Atlas Universal); and the New Military Dictionary written by a "military gentleman" and printed by J. Cooke of London in 1760.

To spark youthful interest in this historical period, the Museum's Education Department has designed a special exhibition tour punctuated with all sorts of exciting discoveries and experiences. The 90-minute tour is being offered to school groups, by reservation, as of November 15. The McCord's volunteer guides will take advantage of the tour to discuss many aspects of life around 1763, including the different roles of men and women, food, fashion, leisure activities, money and hygiene. Kids will also be invited to handle a piece of whalebone from a corset, try on a beaver hat, smell a variety of perfumes, get the feel of fabrics and write with a quill pen.

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Information:
Wanda Palma or Helen Bougas
(514) 398-7100

The Museum is grateful for the support of the Museums Assistance Program of the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Ministère de la Culture et des Communications du Québec and the Conseil des arts de la communauté urbaine de Montréal.