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Remember, door to door

Remember, door to door

I don't know if you're like me, but when I visit a foreign city, I religiously read almost all the plaques I find on my way.


Thanks to one of these paintings I discovered the house – at 11 Victor Schölcher Street, 14H The arrondissement, in Paris – where Simone de Beauvoir lived from 1955 to 1986. The same at 32 rue Bourdonnais, at 1any The area where Abbé Pierre lived and worked from 1914 to 1954.

These memorial plaques are nuggets of history that make our tours even more interesting.

I'm a big fan of walking and I think it's a shame that Montreal doesn't have more of them.

Even if our history is not as long as that of Paris or London, there have been enough notable figures and events to double this type of portrait.

Let's take a random name: Thérèse Casgrain, this feminist activist who helped get women the right to vote in Quebec. She was born and lives in Montreal, but you wouldn't know it if you passed her childhood home on Rue du Musée in the Golden Square Mile. This magnificent residence, named after his father (Maison Rodolphe-Forget), today houses the Russian Consulate…

To find a monument to Theresa Casgrain, you have to go to Quebec and admire the monument honoring women in politics next to Parliament.

birth Total rejection

I got the idea for this column when I attended Robert LePage's presentation, Project Riopelle, last spring. It is reported that in Claude Gauvreau's family apartment, at 75 Sherbrooke Street West, a small group of artists wrote a text Total rejection. I went to this address, now occupied by Royal Air Maroc. There is nothing that could remind passersby of the historical importance of this building. It's unfortunate.

Photo by Maurice Peron, courtesy of Line-Sylvie Peron

Claude Gauvreau, Julien Gauvreau, Pierre Gauvreau, Marcel Barbeau, Madeleine Arbour, Paul-Emile Borduas, Madeleine Lalonde, Bruno M. Cormier and Jean-Paul Musso in February 1947. The photograph, which is part of the collection of the National Museum of Fine Arts of Quebec, bears the title The Second Mechanics' Gallery is at 75 West, Sherbrooke Street, in the Gauvreau House.

I talked about my obsession with memorial plaques to Yves Bergeron, director of the UQAM Heritage Institute. I found a receptive ear in this expert. He emphasized to me that memorial plaques respond to a collective need for memory.

It's a way to reach people outside museums and institutions. There is still a lot of mediation work to be done.

Yves Bergeron, Director of the UQAM Heritage Institute

When I ask him to name the places he would go to deconstruct a painting, Yves Bergeron answers without hesitation: Régan Ducharme's house, in Little Burgundy. It would also underscore the importance of Château Dufresne as a starting point for the Quiet Revolution. Finally, many Quebec theaters contributed to the transformation of Quebec, and Mr. Bergeron believes this should be commemorated in a more visible way.

Photo by David Boyle, Press Archive

Régan Ducharme's house, in Little Burgundy

I wanted to have fun making a list of people I would like to commemorate, and I admit that one of the first names that came to mind was that of Michel Tremblay. I quickly found the address of the house where he was born, so I wrote to the famous author to ask if there was one of these paintings somewhere on the Mont Royal plateau. His response was quick: “There isn't one. That's much better.”

When I ask him if that will make him happy, he answers: “After I die. I have rejected a Canadian stamp with my picture twice.”

Note to self: It's best to check with the person you want to memorialize if they're still alive…

Quebec example

Photo by Robert Skinner, Press

(Chateau Dufresne, in Montreal). Yves Bergeron, director of the UQAM Heritage Institute, believes that the importance of place as a starting point for the quiet revolution should be emphasized.

In 2022, the Ministry of Culture and Communications adopted a new commemoration strategy. The program, titled “I Remember,” will be published in the coming months. One measure concerns memorial plaques.

The provincial government can take an example from Quebec City, which has its own policy. There are 142 temples in the ancient capital, honoring the place of life of historical figures, or individuals who had an influence. Every five years, new names are added to the list. The committee is studying proposals that may also come from citizens. “These plaques contribute to the impact of the city, which is responsible for their maintenance,” Jean-Pascal Lavoie, a spokesman for Quebec City, explains to me.

He told me that the building owners are always happy to welcome them, even if it sometimes means tourists stopping in front of their homes.

Commemorate differently

Photo by Robert Skinner, Press

The mural is a tribute to Françoise Sullivan, which was photographed last September. This is another way to commemorate the artist's history and approach.

I'm a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to the paintings I make, and I realized this when I spoke with Denis Boucher, president of the Montreal Heritage Council. The historian made me understand that my city stands out for its innovative approach to commemoration.

Examples: the River-Mountain Route, the installations in Chinatown, the entries on the St. Catherine Street Pier, or the Bell Street Route that recalls the encounter between indigenous people and newcomers.

We then talk about integrated design, which is a different way of capturing information. According to Mr. Boucher, these methods “establish a dialogue with the walking citizen.”

Another example: the mural in honor of Françoise Sullivan. “It leads us to unconsciously learn history,” says Denis Boucher. It is a form of celebration that also tells the story of the artist's approach. »

It is true that these innovative methods are different and arouse curiosity. But that doesn't stop me from wanting to see more plaques on my walks around Montreal.

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