Monday, April 21, 2014

Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Museum of Archaeology and History: Journey Through Montréal History from the Ground Up


**Disclosure: We did receive complimentary admission for the purpose of conducting a review. No compensation was received. All opinions are 100% my own.

During our visit to Montréal, we had the pleasure of visiting Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Museum of Archaeology and History and I have to say that our family found the museum to be a uniquely tangible way to learn about the history of Montréal. When you visit Pointe-à-Callière Museum, you descend down below Montréal and in essence descend through time to hear the voices of past inhabitants.

Montréal was founded in 1642 making it one of the oldest cities in North America. Members of the First Nations lived on the island of Montréal for thousands of years, long before the city was founded. With thousands of years of history, the area of Vieux-Montréal is built upon layer after layer of civilization with many stories to tell. Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Museum of Archaeology and History provides an interactive way for families to virtually peel back these layers and see how Montréal has grown into the city it is today.


A spectacular introduction to Montréal:

Upon our arrival, we were pleasantly greeted by the staff who gave us a brief orientation of the site. Be sure to grab a map--we did get turned around a couple of times while exploring so it definitely helps! After, we headed into a theater to watch a movie about the history of Montréal. I have to say that this presentation has to be one of the most well done that I have ever seen! The theater is situated on top of ruins which is thrilling in itself. However, the presentation was truly engaging and exciting. Montréal really unfolded before our eyes through the spectacular use of multimedia!



Visiting the beginnings of Montréal:

After watching the presentation, we descended down below Montréal, down to the very beginnings of settlement of the area. After watching Indiana Jones, everyone dreams of being an archaeologist. At Pointe-à-Callière, you get to explore the world of archaeology at a real archaeological site. So, everyone gets to be Indiana Jones! I have been to several different sites incorporating archaeological digs but none of them has been as comprehensive as Pointe-à-Callière. Amazing!

Montréal's first cemetery
The museum campus covers the foundations of many significant sites for the city which we found incredible. We stood where it all happened! The first area we checked out happened to be the first burial site where both settlers and members of the First Nations were buried. Nearby, there were exhibits that detailed the lives of the people of the First Nations incorporating hands-on materials for children.

Tangible history
Walking through history:

As we moved through the archaeological site, we learned about different time periods in Montréal's history by standing exactly where important events happened or influential people lived. Pointe-à-Callière is where Montréal was born. For me, it was exciting to see remnants of nearly 400 years of history--certainly something you do not experience everyday. We saw the remains of the walls that once protected Montréal, stood in the town's main public square, saw where the St. Pierre River once flowed and more.

Remains of the wall


The museum does a great job of using written description and coordinating lights to illuminate the pieces you are reading about to help you identify ruins. In a way, it is like you are making the discovery yourself! The museum also uses multimedia images of town residents from the past to create dialogue with guests helping you learn about daily life. Truly a hit with the kids!



Pirates or Privateers: A High Seas Adventure for Kids:

The museum has an amazing Pirate or Privateer exhibit that really helps kids get hands-on. The museum has a pirate ship inviting exploration. My daughter, of course, had to grab the wheel to steer the ship to safety! Interactive portions of the exhibit helped her learn about a pirate's life including displaying items commonly found on a ship, how to measure out rations and how to prepare a cannon. All three of us enjoyed looking at the intricate model ships that are also included in the exhibit.



It's a pirate's life for me!


Something special for all visitors, new and old:

While exploring, do not forget to check out the special exhibitions. During our visit, the museum was under the spell of Beatlemania! Using multimedia and artifacts, visitors were swept up in the rush of Beatlemania. My daughter's knowledge of the Beatles is rather limited, so she was very interested in learning as much about them as she could while checking out the exhibit. The exhibit was truly fun and lively--complete with a karaoke section where you could sing with the Beatles.

Will you hold my hand?
Lots to look at!
Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Museum of Archaeology and History is a pretty complete package and a thorough experience for families. Other areas to not miss include the lookout, the current exhibit on The Plateau {a neighborhood in Montréal}, a "dig" for kids and the gift shop sporting many wonderful souvenir items including products from local artists. {We picked up a few unique finds at the gift shop to bring home!}Admission ranges from $20 for adults to $7 for children ages 6-12. There are various student rates, a senior rate and family rates available.

If you are spending some time visiting Vieux-Montréal, Pointe-à-Callière Museum is well-positioned to add to your itinerary. However, the museum is expansive, so do consider allowing yourself at least 3 hours there. Truly a gem for the inquisitive! The museum is quite an adventure through time and not one to be missed!

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