For Montreal Museums Day, the STM organizes a free shuttle service that leads a jubilant mob of thousands of visitors and locals alike (130,000 last year) around five circuits, from one art spot to the other, from 9 am to 4:30 pm. The museums pull out all the stops, often adding animation and special events to their already rich programming. To wit: at the Quartier des Spectacles starting line, the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal is featuring animals who can do tricks, in keeping with its Zoo exhibition – plus a Bilboquet ice cream stand! Yum.
For an added layer to the experience, download the Montreal Museums app for inside info about each place you’re visiting – you’ll also be the first to hear about upcoming exhibitions and events. Here are five spots – one per route – we highly recommend you stop by this May 27.
1) Blue route: Grande Bibliothèque: Apart from being the city’s biggest library with family-friendly animation and activities all year long, this Museums Day the Grande Bibliothèque is spotlighting its cool current show on manga, or Japanese comics (part of its Manga Year). Kids can get enthralled in this world of gripping narratives and larger-than-life characters while parents may want to go on the animated tour of the Bibliothèque’s myriad exhibition spaces – there’s a show on the development of women’s fashion over the turn of the 20th century, and one of ancient books dating back to the Renaissance.
2) Green route: Musée de Lachine: A mere 10 kilometres away from downtown Montreal, but across the river in the borough of Lachine, the Musée de Lachine is going all out by putting on a treasure hunt! Search for clues among the 400 objects featured in its exhibition spaces, particularly in the beautiful historical 17th century house called the Maison LeBer-LeMoyne. And don’t forget to explore its grounds, where 50 monumental contemporary sculptures live year round.
3) Yellow route: Canadian Centre for Architecture: This holy house of architecture right downtown is among the city’s most beautiful museums. Apart from guided tours of its current exhibition on the fascinating and overactive creative mind of architect James Frazer Stirling, the CCA is putting on a family activity that will get you building stuff yourself: an animated program called Tangrams, Tinker Toys and Tube Traxx, offered from 1 to 5 pm, that’s sure to make this an entertainingly edifying visit.
4) Red route: Pointe-à-Callière: Learn all about the history of Montreal in the museum located on its very founding spot, Pointe-à-Callière, in Old Montreal. Its permanent exhibition, Where Montreal Was Born, is always worth a tour for newcomers, but there’s also Montreal Love Stories (a peek into Montrealers’ hearts) and a multimedia show about the city that’ll razzle and dazzle the kids. Best of all is the outdoor activity, though: A Cultural Feast, from 11 am to 6 pm, where the museum will be serving foods from the city’s various cultures.
5) Purple route: Maison Saint-Gabriel: Smack bang in the midst of the leafy paradise of Ste-Hélène Island, a small island joined to Montreal by the Jacques-Cartier bridge, the Maison Saint-Gabriel makes it its year-round business to bring history to life. On Museums Day staff will animate their beautiful historical house with storytelling, demonstrations of life in Quebec in the 17th century and, best of all (we swear we’re not greedy), tastings of treats from the terroir, including brown sugar fudge coulis.
Montreal Museums Day 2012, May 27, 9 am to 4:30 pm
Isa Tousignant is contributing editor for Canadian Art, Montreal correspondent for Akimbo, and a freelance writer on art, culture, travel, design and shoes for everyone from enRoute to Canadian Business to herself.