This engaging exhibition consists of portraits and biographies of 41 local citizens of the Centre-Sud district of Montreal. The exhibit focused upon the contributions these men and women had made to their local community in fields as varied as the literacy movement, housing, co-operatives, the arts and philanthropy. Local citizens were encouraged and enabled to nominate subjects and the Museum then developed these proposals into a year long exhibit based on seven themes: I help, I give, I contribute, we mobilize, we cooperate, we speak out for, and I act.
The Museum’s skills in research and design were combined with the knowledge of the local people to create an exhibition which spoke directly to the community in its own voice. The Museum was also able to use the year long presence of the exhibit to bring the community together in various round-tables, a film presentation, visiting speakers, and a charette on community school architecture. They also took the opportunity to draw attention to the place of community activism in a global context.
The “Citoyens” exhibition and its programs demonstrate what can be achieved with relatively few resources. Using imagination, local knowledge and by building partnerships with other local institutions, including universities, the museum was able to have a significant impact on how a contemporary urban community sees its past and its people. In shining a light on the simple everyday life of ordinary people the exhibit also illuminates the exceptional work of active citizens and shares with us their pride and their commitment to public engagement.
On its 30th anniversary, the Écomusée du fier monde clearly demonstrates that museums can not only expand our historical knowledge and understanding but that they can also be effective community builders and creators of the public memory.