Friday, July 21, 2017

PAC 2017: First Parliament Dig Site

Canada’s First Parliament Archaeological Dig Site
Open to Public

July 18 - end of October 2017

Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal’s archaeology and history complex (PAC), is opening up one of the country’s most significant archaeological site, shedding some light on a major period in history when Montréal was the capital cof the United Province of Canada, commonly called the United Canada (1844-1849).

The archaeological digs and an outdoor exhibition is taking place at the heart of the remains of the Montréal parliament, which still lies beneath the ground in Old Montréal. From one single location, visitors will be able to assess the historical significance of this archaeological site, stroll through the largest Montreal’s archaeological, watch archaeologists at work, explore an outdoor exhibition, and take part in informative guided tours.

Located in what is today called Old Montréal, the Montréal parliament and its vestiges lie beneath a former municipal parking lot, on Place D’Youville West, between McGill and Saint-Pierre streets. This archaeological excavation, carried out by Pointe-à-Callière and archaeologists of the firm Ethnoscop, aims to document the site, check on the state of the remains, and plan a program for the site development.

Montréal, capital and birthplace of modern Canada
Many people don’t know that Montréal was once the country’s capital. At the time, Montreal played an essential role—economically, politically, and socially. The city was the United Canada’s metropolis, the country’s financial centre. It was also a commercial hub, thanks to its international port. Its citizens included both Anglophones and Francophones. After much debate, several parliamentarians asked that Montréal be made the capital, a choice left up to the Queen of England in the Act of Union. Once this was done, the members sat in the former St. Anne’s Market building, which was converted into the Parliament from 1844 to 1849.

Montréal went on to establish itself as the birthplace of modern Canada, and its Parliament was witness to a major chapter in Canadian history. During the 1840s, significant reforms were adopted: the French language was recognized as one of the country’s official languages, and the Assembly won full control over the budget. Changes in the administration also took place: for example, several ministries (Public Works, Education, Crown Land, Secretariat, etc.) were newly created to meet the needs of the population. In March 1848, the Reformist party, led by Louis-Hippolyte La Fontaine and Robert Baldwin, won the election and, in its wake, was recognized by the Governor General as a “responsible government.” This local autonomy within the British Empire was an important step in Canadian Confederation. The Parliament of the United Province of Canada in Montréal was privileged to witness major transformations in the Canadian political system.

In 1849, a riot was sparked by the Royal sanction given to the act indemnifying victims of the 1837-1838 Rebellions. The parliament building was burned down in tragic circumstances, with Montréal losing its status as the capital. Parliament then sat alternately in Toronto and Quebec City before it was moved to Ottawa, in 1857. In 2012, the Government of Québec recognized the importance of the site, designating it a heritage site; in 1949, the Government of Canada designated it as a national historic event.

An outdoor exhibition
In addition to the archaeological dig, Pointe-à-Callière is presenting an outdoor exhibition entitled Montréal, Capital of Canada – A Parliament Beneath Your Feet. Visitors will get to stroll through the heart of the archaeological dig and the exhibition, watching archaeologists at work! Explanatory panels and a timeline will feature the key players present and political issues during that major period in Canadian history. There is also an explanation of the dig and a presentation of the development project for the site, an integral part of the Montréal Archaeology and History Complex, developed by Pointe-à-Callière.

Informative guided tours
PAC Museum’s guides lead free tours every 30 minutes, on Wednesday to Sunday, from 12:30 pm to 4:30 pm, until September 24. Independent visits of the site can take place outside of these periods until the termination of the archaeological dig in the end of October.

The archaeological dig on the site of the Parliament of the United Province of Canada was made possible through the financial support of the City of Montreal (Ville de Montréal).

Click on images to enlarge them.

For more information on the current exhibitions and programs, visit the PAC Museum's website.

Short video: 

Montréal, A capital, A Parliament (1844-1849)

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