Le Musée de l'Amérique française
Proud heir to Canada’s museum pioneers
On October 22, 1806, two Séminaire de Québec priests, Fathers Jérôme Demers and Félix Gatien, opened a small science museum to display a variety of scientific instruments they had acquired for educational purposes. Without realizing it, these two early science buffs had laid the groundwork for museums in Canada, establishing a tradition that gave birth to Musée de l’Amérique française.
It is no surprise that Canada’s first museum was founded at Séminaire de Québec. The priests who trained and taught there had a reputation for open-mindedness. As skilled educators with a passion for knowledge, they believed strongly in combining teaching with practice, and traveled willingly to the United States, Europe, and Africa to acquire the most recent tools for the development and dissemination of knowledge.
Within a few short years of the founding of Université Laval in 1852, the Séminaire counted no less than eight museums within its walls: a physics cabinet (1806); zoology, geology and mineral, and botany museums (1862); a numismatic museum (1859); a religious museum and an ethnological museum (circa 1866); and a medical museum. By this time, seminar officials had also put together an impressive collection of European and Canadian paintings as well as Chinese, African, and Egyptian collections.
In 1983, Musée du Séminaire was relocated in the former boarding school now fittingly known as Pavillon Jérôme-Demers. Ten years later, it was renamed Musée de l’Amérique française in recognition of its collections, which bear witness to the spread of francophone culture across North America. In 1995, Musée de l’Amérique française came under the management of Musée de la civilisation, but maintained its historic vocation. The museum’s permanent exhibitions—Séminaire de Québec, Works & Wisdom and The History of our Collections—stand as eloquent testimony to the work of the early pioneers, whereas the exhibition The Settling of French America showcases the scope of francophone influence in North America. Today, Musée de l’Amérique française also plays host to numerous cultural events in the Séminaire’s former exterior chapel, which became a full-fledged part of the museum in1989.
The exceptional architecture, history, and heritage of Séminaire de Québec lend Musée de l’Amérique française a unique sense of soul. The museum’s name acknowledges history; a visit is a trip back in time.
Issued: May 16, 2006