Several Montréal museums provide a thorough history of the city, but none quite match the heft of this one. For starters, Pointe-à-Callière consists of six buildings spread out exactly where the original colonists settled in the 1640s and is a bona fide archaeological site. Permanent exhibits include a multimedia show and self-guided tour through the heart of the building. Underground tunnels wind their way to the Custom House, and along the path are centuries-old foundations of the original buildings that once stood here. Illuminated displays show off artifacts found during the excavations that took place, as well as the city’s first Catholic cemetery, dating to 1643. The design of the newest building—the Éperon building—is a perfect example of contrasts, with a contemporary exterior and triangular shape reminiscent of the Victorian-era Royal Insurance building that stood here until 1951. Much of the museum is better for adults than children, but a new “Archaeo-Adventure” space opened in 2012 in the museum’s Mariners’ House, targeting kids 8 to 14; it simulates an archaeological dig for children and families, including a chance to role-play in the head archaeologist’s tent and lab space. There’s a well-regarded top-floor café that offers great views (lunch and weekend brunch only) and a gift shop in the Mariners’ House. To sample the collection before or after a visit, find the museum at www.google.com/artproject.
- Leslie Brokaw, Erin Trahan, Matthew Barber