Exhibition Planning Officer
Exhibitions and Programmes Branch
Canadian Museum of Civilization
This article was published in Musées, vol. 22, (December 2000).
We observe in England, during the second half of the nineteenth century, the creation of museums as institutions, with the chief motivation of their instigators being a desire to educate the masses. Throughout the period, museums and education constituted two components of a single equation.
From the very beginning of the twentieth century, John Cotton Dana, founder of the Newark Museum in New Jersey, promoted the museum as an instrument of education. Debate raged at the time between those who believed that the museum should be guided by purely aesthetic considerations and those who saw it as a teaching institution shaped by the needs and aspirations of the community.
These two examples clearly illustrate the extent to which the educational function of museums is intrinsically bound up with their creation and development. Although these examples are from different cultural environments, one should not assume that the development of museums in Quebec took place in a vacuum. Quite the contrary.
How did museum-related education originate in Quebec, and what were the principal milestones in its development? We will attempt to outline some elements of an answer to this question, through personal reflection and with the appropriate perspective.