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Quebec |  Museum of National History on the ashes of blue spaces

Quebec | Museum of National History on the ashes of blue spaces

The cost of building the Fourth National Museum is estimated at $92 million, and it is scheduled to open in less than two years.

(Quebec) The Premier of Quebec issued a nationalistic “historic declaration” on Thursday. His government wants to open within two years the first national museum of Quebec history, the same place where the mother house of the defunct Blue Spaces was to be located.

“My goal, which I give myself, is for Quebecers to leave here saying 'I'm proud to be a Quebecois,'” François Legault declared during the announcement at the Camille Pavilion-Roy of the École Quebecois Metropolitan School.

The announcement was attended by several CAQ elected officials, but none of them were from other political parties. However, the Prime Minister recalled the memory of a former Parti Québécois premier. “The last national museum opened in Quebec was 40 years ago by René Lévesque. It was the Museum of Civilization,” he remembers.

This new history museum, scheduled to open in the spring of 2026, will therefore be the fourth national museum, after the National Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Montreal, and the Museum of Civilization.

The Legault government believes that this new institution will fill the void by presenting the history of Quebecers.

I think it's important to start with Champlain, at first, to show how it was not easy for a small French-speaking minority to survive in America.

François Legault, Premier of Quebec

The Grand Chief of the Huron Wendat Nation, who is often present at political events in Quebec, was not invited to attend the announcement. But the Prime Minister stressed that the new museum will highlight “the presence of indigenous peoples who were there before us and who helped us over the years.”

Photograph by Yann Doublet, Le Soleil Archives

The new museum will be located in Quebec, in the Camille-Roy Pavilion of the Séminaire de Québec, which is currently undergoing renovations.

From Celine Dion to Mike Busey

The Museum of Civilization will have the task of creating the content of the museum in its infancy. The foundation will be supported by a scientific committee led by historian Eric Bédard, professor at the Department of History at TELUQ University.

“The goal is to present a history to a people who speak the French language and culture, a history that unites us, where we will be able to take a tour from the beginnings to today,” Mr. Bedard explained.

He confirms that the museum will not be “national,” but rather truly national.

Photo by André Pichet, Press Archive

Historian Eric Bedard

I don't think the story we're going to tell you will be the story of an activist. It is the story of a nation, with many things we should be proud of, but also gray areas that we will not sweep under the rug.

Eric Bédard is a professor in the Department of History at TELUQ University

What exactly are beginnings? Explorers as mentioned by the Prime Minister?

“When does the history of Quebec begin? It is a real topic. With the scientific committee we will think about it,” he said. “But it is certain that the people of Quebec share lands with nations and we will have to tell their story and talk about this connection, it is very important.”

“It is said that history begins with writing, and before history is prehistory. Indigenous people may be part of Quebec's prehistory,” Mr. Bédard adds.

The historian notes that the Museum of Civilization has temporary exhibits on the history of Quebec, but does not have a permanent exhibit on the subject. “Last summer I was in Corsica, there are two history museums in Corsica, a population of 400,000 people, and I think we were right on schedule!”, says Mr. Bedard.

The Prime Minister made a point of introducing key figures or moments, whether from the world of sports (Maurice Richard or Mike Bossy) as well as literature (Michel Tremblay, Marie Laberge and Dany Laferriere), or even song (Les Cowboys Fringants, Gilles Vigneault). And Ginette Renaud)…

Will there be a place for English speakers in this history? asked a CBC journalist. François Legault replied: “I see a place for people like Leonard Cohen. They are part of our history, so I see a place for them.”

At a cost of 92 million

The works in the new museum will come in particular from the collection of the Museum of Civilization. “We have a collection of 680,000 artifacts, so there will be no problems. Our challenge is the choice, there are so many possibilities,” noted the General Director of the Museum of Civilization, Stephane Laroche.

Mr. Laroche confirms that many countries have a national history museum, most notably the United States, Catalonia, Scotland, Sweden, Germany and Portugal… According to him, there was room for this new institution. “The Museum of Civilization is a community museum, not a history museum,” he says.

This new institution will somehow be born from the ashes of blue spaces. Announced with great fanfare in 2021, the centers were to be established in 17 regions of Quebec to honor the “history of heroes and builders.” The goal of this network of museums was to convince Quebecers to forget “Cancun or Puerto Plata” when visiting the province.

But the explosion of costs overcame the project. The bill was initially estimated at $259 million, then approached $1 billion in early March. At this time the CAQ government announced the end of the project, ten days before the provincial budget was presented with a record deficit of $11 billion.

Only 4 out of 17 announced projects managed to see the light of day. The museum in Quebec, housed in the Camille-Roy pavilion in Séminaire, will therefore become a history museum. The building dating back to 1854 had to be restored and equipped to museum standards. The cost is estimated at 92 million.

State-acquired heritage buildings in Amos and Percy have been renovated at great cost. Quebec has also made a bid to buy a wing of the former Petites Franciscaines monastery, in Baie-Saint-Paul, but it still doesn't know whether the work will continue.

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