Sometimes the most fascinating view is found not by looking up at the stars or across a cityscape but straight beneath you – in this case, at layers of history stacked atop one another in Montreal‘s Pointe-à-Callière Museum. With First Nations’ artifacts, British Regime structures, and a really old sewer pipe (gross but, hey, impressive civil engineering for 1838), the place is a veritable tiered cake of cultural remnants.
Digs began only recently (comparatively speaking) in 1989 beneath Place Royale, where an “archaeological crypt” is the silent gathering place for lost structural remnants such as a paved street from the late 1700’s, a building’s fortification stones, a fountain base, and post pieces from the town’s first guardhouse and wooden palisade – the last two dating back to 1698 and 1684, respectively. The crypt seems a bit eerie when you consider how close the rest of the city is – i.e., kind of on top of you.
The site is also home to the fist Catholic cemetery in Montreal. The neoclassical Ancienne-Douane Building (which used to be the city’s custom house) and newly acquired Mariners House (where Montreal’s Sailor’s Institute was established in 1875) might also be of interest to archeology buffs.
Since its opening in 1992 (as part of the city’s 350th birthday celebration), the Pointe-à-Callière has racked up dozens of awards for its conservation, programming, and exhibitions. Its purpose revolves around protecting the historical and archaeological heritage and educating visitors on the discoveries present – and still evolving – in the area. The point itself is called “Calliere” after the surname of Montreal’s third governor, who had a home built here in the late 17th century.
Check the schedule for events – many special exhibits, tours, and activities are included with the regular admission price. And make sure you wish the place a Happy 20th Birthday for 2012!