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Le Centre d'exposition de l'Université de Montréal

Curieux univers

(Montreal, Quebec, Canada)

Curieux univers
Open to the public since August 1998, the Centre d'exposition de l'Université de Montréal is a place where different types of university learning converge. One of its mandates is to support projects for real and virtual exhibitions by generating encounters between partners from various scientific and artistic fields.

While "the order of things" may seem fairly dry as an exhibition subject, it is in fact a fascinating phenomenon that plumbs the depths of the human psyche. Research has revealed just how rooted classification is in human nature, and that it constitutes the basis of all scientific activity. The virtual exhibition A Curious Universe focuses mainly on the subject of classification in museum collections, and endeavours to reveal concepts inherent in building such collections. The show is an opportunity to examine virtual exhibitions and consider their potential and the ways they are used. It also offers further thoughts on the design of real exhibitions in museums. The Centre is taking advantage of this virtual exhibition to explore and propose a museological and museographic language making the most of the capabilities of interactive multimedia.

Freely inspired by curiosity cabinets - a confused and disorderly accumulation of miscellaneous objects (antiques, pictures, plants, animals, minerals and exotic artifacts) aimed primarily at wonderment and contemplation - the exhibition aims to bring together the natural and man-made worlds. To represent these two spheres of the universe, four museum-type collections have been chosen: the Herbier Marie-Victorin of the Université de Montréal, the Collection entomologique Ouellet-Robert of the Université de Montréal, the MacKenzie Art Gallery of Regina and the Museum of Anthropology of the University of British Columbia.

The Herbier Marie-Victorin of the Université de Montréal, now housed at the university's Institut de recherche en biologie végétale was founded in 1920 by Brother Marie-Victorin. The collection of dried, pressed plants, assembled for research purposes, today contains more than 750,000 specimens.

The Collection entomologique Ouellet-Robert of the Université de Montréal, established in the 1930s by Gustave Chagnon, the university's first professor of entomology, now holds some 1,000,000 insect specimens, representing approximately 20,000 species and a hundred or so families.

The nucleus of the MacKenzie Art Gallery was built up during the first half of the 20th century by a private collector, Norman MacKenzie. The main fields covered by the collection are contemporary and historical Canadian art, contemporary and historical Saskatchewan art, ancient and modern European art, and international art.

To bring together its collections of ethnographic material amassed since 1927, the University of British Columbia established the Museum of Anthropology in 1947. The Museum houses approximately 33,000 domestic and ritual artifacts that form a remarkable assortment of objects from Canada's Northwest Coast First Nations. It also contains ethnological objects from Japan, China, the South Pacific and Africa, Inuit objects, an extensive collection of European ceramics and a collection of 200,000 archaeological objects.

The show is designed for non-specialists interested in artistic creation on the Internet as well as all those fascinated by collection contents, museum exhibitions and the history of science. With its substantial interactive component, A Curious Universe will also appeal to members of the public with experimental inclinations and a desire to form their own meaningful connections.

Julie Desautels © 2004 FDL