Established in 1806 by the Séminaire de Québec, the Musée de l'Amérique francophone is the oldest museum in Canada. Originally known as the Musée du Séminaire, it changed its name to the Musée de l’Amérique française in 1993 and to the Musée de l'Amérique francophone in 2013. Located in the Historic District of Old Québec, is a testament to the settlement and development of French culture in North America.
From Musée du Séminaire to Musée de l'Amérique francophone
From the time of the seminary’s founding, Laval encouraged the priests to compile their books, thus creating one of the first libraries in New France. Not only does the library contain the accounts of 17th and 18th century explorers, it also houses valuable texts from the 16th through to the 20th century.
By the time the museum opened on 22 October 1806, house collections included objects used in science education, likely under the direction of Jérôme Demers. Collections of coins, stamps and items related to mineralogy, geology, zoology and botany, as well as fossils, paintings and antique books were added in time.
In 1838, architect Thomas Baillairgé designed the plans for the building that would house the Musée du Séminaire, with its rounded façade, on côte de la Fabrique.
In 1991, the museum's entire collection was inventoried. Some 110,000 pieces were classified according to historical, ethnological and scientific criteria. Items dealing with numismatics (the study of coins), philately (see Stamp Collecting), fine arts and the decorative arts were grouped together.
In 1993, the Musée du Séminaire officially changed its name to the Musée de l'Amérique française. It is part of the Musées de la civilisation de Québec complex. On the museum’s 25th anniversary in 2013, it was renamed the Musée de l’Amérique francophone.
The exhibits mounted at the museum introduce the public to the religious heritage treasures from the Séminaire de Québec collection. The Musée de l’Amérique francophone hosts many permanent exhibitions including Revelations, produced in celebration of the Séminaire de Québec’s 350th anniversary in 2013. This exhibit presents over 100 works from the Séminaire’s fine arts collection. It includes works from renowned Québec artists, such as Joseph Légaré, Marc-Aurèle de Foy Suzor-Côté and Jean Paul Lemieux, as well as sculptures, prints, and gold and silverware.
Through the exhibit On the Road: The Francophone Odyssey (Partir sur la route des francophones) visitors can re-live the experiences of French-speaking peoples in North America by following their migration from three colonial heartlands (Acadia, the St. Lawrence Valley and Louisiana) to other locations.This portrait of the francophone diaspora in North America makes the visitor aware of the impact these communities made, but also reminds them that the Francophonie in North America is not limited to the St. Lawrence Valley and Québec.
The museum's chapel, erected on the site of the Séminaire de Québec and considered among the most beautiful of Québec's religious heritage sites, is an integral part of the visit. The Chapelle du Musée de l'Amérique francophone secularized in 1992. A former place of worship for priests and seminarians, it now serves as a conference centre, and banquet and concert hall.
The French America Reference Centre is open to researchers by appointment. It offers the opportunity to consult part of the archival materials, rare books collection and query the database of all Musées de la civilisation collections. In 2007, the Archives of the Séminaire de Québec were listed in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register, a compendium of documentary heritage that is of “world significance and outstanding universal value.”