We were keen to do something educational in Quebec, really learn something about the history and culture of the place. The Musee de la Civilisation was a mere hop, skip, and jump from our apartment so we headed there. It’s a museum of history and anthropology which obviously has a particular focus on French Canada and the First Nations peoples. It was, therefore, perfect for our purposes. I suppose because I am more used to Victorian museum buildings so I was pleasantly surprised by how spacious this museum was and how the flow worked between sections.
I enjoyed the exhibition on the history of French Canada. It was presented in chronological order and I thought the artefacts were well-curated in order to illustrate that history and communicate something about the people of each period. Lots of social history too which is my thing. The kids really did not dig this section at all and did not especially engage but they are all old enough now that they could mill around at their own pace while their father and I took our time.
What we all uniformly enjoyed was a special exhibition on the subject of poison. We learned about poisons used for good and poisons used for malicious purposes and the presentation was very visual and interactive. My macabre lot found it fascinating – though I suspect their highlight was seeing a bloke (hopefully an employee) reaching his bare arm and ungloved hand into a tank full of poisonous frogs. As I have previously confided, I have an interest in the history of pandemics and that has led to a bit of an interest in medical history. I, therefore, enjoyed all of the items that were about turning poisons into medicines – some of which were obviously of questionable merit (hello, mercury!) and a display case full of bezoars. As someone who loves the macabre, I also liked the poisons that were used for detecting witches. Mr Pict and two of our oldest sons are arachnophobes but they liked seeing a tarantula and a black widow.
The next section we visited was a sort of maze full of games that were, I think, about using your senses to solve puzzles and messing around with optical illusions. The boys especially enjoyed playing around with a mirror in which they could pretend to be dangling above skyscrapers and a maze that was absolutely devoid of light. It was fun to find our way around using just our hands and it was even more fun to watch each other on the night vision cameras.
The final section we went to was about prehistory. I mean, what history museum is complete without some fossils? I loved the way several exhibits were presented, with an audiovisual animation of a creature playing behind the glass case containing the relevant fossil. My youngest – who is absolutely obsessed with cats – was delighted to find a mummified cat on display.
It was a really good quality museum and a thoroughly pleasing way to spend a morning in Quebec.