The genesis of the project
The idea for the Festival d’Histoire de Montréal first came about in 2014. At the invitation of Sophie Imbeault, an editor at Septentrion, a group of individuals and organizations, including one of Montreal’s history museums, got together to discuss the creation of an event in the spirit of the Festival “Rendez-vous de l’histoire,” which takes place every year in Blois, France. The idea was shared with the other members of the Regroupement des musées d’histoire de Montréal, but the project was put on hold as the museums worked on other projects related to Montreal’s upcoming 375th anniversary, in 2017. Those projects became “OFF 375,” which included more than thirty events and no fewer than sixteen exhibitions, all accompanied by historical vignettes in the Journal Métro.
In 2018, the museums turned back to this new initiative and began contacting potential partners to plan the big event.
Their wish? To produce and participate in an off-the-beaten-path and festive event that would unite experts and citizens alike around diverse, contemporary themes and content fully rooted in history.
They continued to draw inspiration from the Rendez-vous de l’histoire in Blois, which has been popularized throughout Europe thanks to its cross-cutting themes and contributions from guest speakers from all over the world. It has welcomed 30,000 visitors each year for more than 20 years, with professionals, history-lovers and people whose curiosity has simply been piqued coming together to explore history in varied forms and different settings: cafés, bookstores, movie theatres, public spaces, etc.
The first Montreal History Festival
Their plan was therefore to lay the foundation for an annual history festival. With this first edition, Montreal’s history museums present a participatory event that gives history its close-up: the Festival d’Histoire de Montréal.
Dynamic and inclusive programming has been developed to reach Montrealers of all ages and backgrounds and to allow them to get to know history from a new angle. Over recent years, the public and media have increasingly sought to understand the historical roots of current events.
It has become more and more relevant for museums to develop new ways to talk about history, to inform and to reach out to the public in ways that correspond to their abilities, collections and passion. By taking on such a large-scale challenge, Montreal History Museums are continuing in their role as leaders in the cultural sector and continuing to stimulate our imaginations.