Sunday, August 29, 2010

Last Week

Well, the one-way train ticket to Toronto is booked. I leave on Wednesday with no apartment or job lined up, but I’m confident in my decision and hopeful that things will quickly fall into place. Besides packing and seeing friends and having little panic attacks, I have a lot of museums to visit in my final week in Montreal. At this point I have to acquiesce to the fact that I won’t complete my mission. I need to spend some of this week just doing nothing, decompressing a bit. However, I will have almost seen all that Montreal has to offer.

I’ve visited many random museums over this last year, some of which surprised me, and some I could have lived without. In my last week I will be making time for the ones I really want to see, and the ones that don’t require me to travel to the edge of the island. My parents will be joining me on several little adventures this week, which makes me happy. I can definitely be an annoying person to visit a museum with. Granted I can be an excellent tour guide, but I also have a hard time not being critical or cynical. That hasn’t changed despite my efforts, although I always try to be fair in my judgments. My sister says that I ruin the experience for her by pointing out the faults, and that’s fair enough. My mom continues to let me drag her to places, and even my dad is getting in on the action this week. Hopefully I’ll introduce them to some interesting new things.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Pointe-à-Callière, Montreal Museum of Archaeology and History

Everyone who knows me well knows that I can't stand this museum. I recognize that I was disappointed when the Prison museum was objective, but I do generally expect that exhibitions will reflect scholarship and not personal agendas. PaC has always struggled to be objective, their text is usually frustratingly laughable, and their permanent collection is so outdated. I didn't have high hopes for their current offering about Easter Island.

And I was pleasantly surprised. Negatives first. The temporary exhibit space is one of the most poorly designed galleries I've ever visited. The space has narrow passageways with text on one side and objects on the other. It requires one to either do two circles around the space or constantly zig back and forth. There were a few textual errors but by and large it was the best temporary exhibition I've ever seen at PaC. The exhibit designer did a wonderful job with the graphics and imagery that gave wonderful reference points for understanding scale and time periods. There were a lot of interesting facts and details. Who knew that there are no large shells on Easter Island. Don't know if I needed to know that, but it was interesting.

The permanent collection has text on neon coloured lightboxes. Its so painful I could barely look at them. I suppose I've seen it so many times that its no longer particularly interesting. I think its a good school/tourist destination. Why not walk through Montreal's old sewers that have pigeons projected on the side? My favourite part of the museum is their audiovisual terminals, which goes against everything I believe in. However, its my favourite because they are so friggin awful you can't help but laugh. Actors portray different people from early Montreal. A touch screen allows you to ask the characters questions, sort of like those Choose Your Own Adventure books. I suppose they provide an interesting entry point into life in early Montreal, but I usually just end of laughing hysterically at the crappy acting and odd choice of questions. They have to be seen to be believed.

20 down. 12 to go.

And the winner for the worst museum in Montreal goes to...

...Exhibition Centre La Prison-des-Patriotes. I still have a dozen museums to see but I'd wager that this one will remain the worst of the bunch.

The Prison-des-Patriotes, located in the basement of the Au Pied-du-Courant building, presents an exhibition on the 1837-1838 rebellions in Lower Canada, the background to the Patriote movement and the impact of these events on political life in Québec and Canada. Fine. But I was expecting a prison and instead there was just text panels. Large blown up images and text panels. I was expecting the information to be totally biased and nationalist and thus kind of amusing but sadly it was objective and fairly uninteresting. I was expecting to be offended in a highly comical way, in fact I had promised my companion that the museum would be flamingly nationalist, but it wasn't. Which obviously is a good thing, but I suppose the point is that museum went too far in the direction of boring.

If you are going to have a museum without objects, then the ideas presented should be weighty. This is not a museum of ideas, in the sense of a human rights museum (which would include objects), it is a straight up history museum. I didn't read much of the information, or take the guided tour which probably would have been quite informative, but I did skim the entire space and it was no more interesting than reading a Quebec history textbook. They could have recounted the stories of individual patriots, talked about those other than the famous names, included objects from the period... It could have been in an actual prison! Luckily it was free, but they definitely shouldn't be charging. There is nothing there that a textbook doesn't have, except that galleries have larger font.

The building is attached to SAQ headquarters. The SAQ sponsors an artwork in the entry way of the museum based on the relevant themes of rebellion, patriots, or, wait for it, the world of wine. Corporate sponsorship gone a little too far?

19 down. 13 to go.