a, Art, Arts & Entertainment

Yours Truly, Montreal provides a ride through the city’s cultural history

A permanent feature at the Pointe-A-Cailliere Museum in Old Port, Yours Truly, Montreal is an immersive exhibit that takes its audience on a journey through Montreal’s history to see how the city has evolved to become the diverse cultural and political hub it is today. The multimedia exhibit is a testament to Montreal’s roots. 

Above the archaeological maze dug into the ground is a 270º screen that maps out Montreal’s unique history. Throughout the show, four numbers projected on the rocks that serve as the base of the exhibit rapidly increase, notifying viewers of the years in question, as the narration speeds through Montreal’s upbringing. 

The number -11 000, representing 11,000 BCE, is illuminated on the structure of rocks, and the show begins. Projections of light replicating a sheet of ice are followed by water rushing in shine over the expanse of stone—movement that ignites an anticipatory excitement. Soon enough, the numbers have scrolled to 1642 and a voice-over representing Montreal introduces itself, “Bonjour Montréal! You are here.”

Swirling through a breadth of history, the eye is prone to wander, and the mind must keep up with the vast array of information that spans from the politics of the fur trade, to the stories of the city’s founders Paul de Chomedey, Sieur de Maisonneuve and Jeanne Mance, to the fervor of the migration to the suburbs experienced in the 1960s. 

Though the quantity of information provided is extensive, the show’s graphics wholeheartedly fulfill their purpose of illustrating the city’s atmosphere throughout various points in history. A curated mix of animation, video content, and photography propels the show and preserves a harmony between the respective mediums of representation. 

Minimal, colourful illustrations of stained glass cathedrals, and crisscrossing expressways envelop the screen. A stream of watercolours paints over black and white sketches of the Plateau. The vividness of the illustrations brings an air of youthfulness and clarity to the exhibit. By keeping the visuals eye-catching, intricate, yet simple enough not to get lost in, the exhibit is able to keep its viewers hooked. 

The task of providing an all-encompassing historical summary of the development of a city is daunting. Covering centuries of evolution in landscape, culture, and economic setting in under 20 minutes is a remarkable task. Though it often feels as though the narrator of Yours Truly, Montreal is rushing to squeeze the extensive amount of content in on time, she maintains a certain eloquence while doing so. The exhibit is able to embrace its ambitious challenge, and more importantly, the voice of Montreal does not hesitate in defining its past.

Whether a tourist or a Montreal native,Yours Truly, Montreal inspires a sense of pride for the city. From the lights of Place Ville Marie, to the greenery of Parc la Fontaine, the expanse of diverse neighbourhoods are all given appropriate recognition. The real magic of the exhibit is its ability to highlight the features that make each neighbourhood unique while showing how they work together to define the city as a whole.  

Overall, the message of the exhibit is that Montreal is a cohesive, striving entity whose past has seen hiccups, but has remained undeterred. It’s a place composed of multiple ethnic backgrounds, varying geographic landscapes, and a wealth of artistic expression—able to accommodate a population as diverse as its history. 

The stopwatch alerts us that it’s 2015 as the film pans to a landscape of today’s metropolis. In a nostalgic tone, our narrator signs off with the reminder; “I am, you are, we are all Montreal.” 

Yours Truly, Montreal is a permanent exhibit at the Montreal Museum of Archaeology and History (350 Place Royale, Corner of de la Commune). Admission for students 18-30 is $12.

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