While Old Montreal’s cobblestone streets and 18th-century buildings offer a picturesque glimpse of the city’s roots, the surrounding neighbourhoods have their own historically significant stories to tell and impressive architecture to match. Lives and Times of the Plateau, a new exhibition at the Pointe-à-Callière history and archaeology museum, illuminates the colourful nooks and crannies of over 200 years of everyday life, industry and creativity in the Plateau neighbourhood…
Home to some of the city’s biggest parks, the densely-populated Plateau (over 100,000 residents in 8.1 square kilometres), just to the north north-east of downtown Montreal, has always been a bustling gathering place for everyone from artists and intellectuals to industrialists, university students to generations of immigrant families. As with the entirety of the city, the Plateau has changed significantly from the turn of the 19th century to the present- the Lives and Times of the Plateau exhibition unveils that dynamic history in a thematically-assembled array of unique artifacts, photographs, city blueprints, historical facts and figures, and film clips as well as an enthralling multimedia portrait of the neighbourhood by artist François Quévillon, created from thousands of recent photographs and meteorological data.
Spanning from Sherbrooke Street to the northern train tracks of Mile End, from Avenue du Parc in the west to rue D’Iberville in the east, the flat (and therefore pleasantly bikeable) Plateau has the ability to change its identity within a few blocks. Today, some streets stand out for their high-fashion shopping and inventive restaurants, while others welcome a quiet stroll under a canopy of leafy trees. Pointe-à-Callière’s exhibition points out where factories used to stand in now-residential areas, how homes evolved from cottages to ubiquitous triplexes with winding staircases, the reasons Catholic churches and synagogues share the same streets, why artists such as Leonard Cohen, Paul Émile-Borduas, Jacob Segal and Émile Nelligan as well as activists such as Léa Roback and Joseph Schubert chose to make the Plateau home, and how a dump was turned into a park and dark alleyways into green spaces cultivated by groups of citizens.
A tour of the exhibition coupled with a walk or bike ride through the Plateau hits home the important intermingling of artists, activists, community-minded business people and families who continue to live in the neighbourhood and form its identity. Live music venues, galleries, shops and restaurants thrive on the Plateau’s social and cultural diversity, and throughout the year, Parc Jeanne-Mance, Mount-Royal and Parc LaFontaine act as neighbourhood hubs. As decidedly urban and active as it’s always been, the Plateau still exudes a relaxed nature and a love of its multifarious roots.
Lives and Times of the Plateau, October 23, 2013 to September 1, 2014
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