1699-2018: Story of a Lifetime Transcript

I would like to thank the committee for the opportunity you are giving me today to present our project, 1699-2018: l'histoire d'une vie.

Joining me are Sister Yvette Isabelle, an Ursuline and Chair of the Museum’s board of directors, and Richard Lapointe, who was the project lead.

The Ursulines arrived in Trois-Rivières in 1697, founding the city’s first school for young girls and first hospital. Their history is closely interwoven with that of Trois-Rivières and their monastery is located at the very heart of the Trois-Rivières heritage site.

The Museum’s mission is to preserve, present, and develop the immovable, movable, memorial, and archaeological heritage of the Ursulines of Trois-Rivières. Since opening in 1982, the Museum has always evolved with the times.

The Ursulines of Trois-Rivières’ collection has never been a hidden asset.

It was very quickly digitized, scanned, and made available on the Info-Muse and Artefacts Canada networks. The safeguarding of intangible heritage, and especially its presentation to the population and to tourists, were at the very core of the Museum’s efforts in the early 2000s.

For a few years now, digital and newer technologies have been an ongoing concern for both the Museum’s team and board of directors, always in relation to its mission of conservation, presentation, and development.

On October 10, 2017, the year marking the 320th anniversary of the Ursulines’ arrival in Trois-Rivières—in fact, they arrived on October 10, 1697—, the Government of Quebec classified the Ursulines’ convent complex as the Ursulines of Trois-Rivières heritage site, while also classifying the Maison blanche as a heritage property.

This action, taken by the Ursuline authorities, the Collège Marie-de-l’Incarnation, and the Quebec government, underlines the importance of the Ursulines’ presence in Trois-Rivières and in the history of Quebec and Canada.

This building also has a very symbolic value for the citizens of Trois-Rivières and stands out as an image for the many tourists visiting the city. It also arouses some curiosity: what lies behind those walls?

With the sisters’ departure fast approaching—they left permanently on July 24, 2019—the Museum thought it important and urgent to learn the history of this building and of the people who occupied it since 1699—and to share the information with a wide audience—before its repurposing.

To accomplish this, the Museum had two digital tools developed in 2018.

Early in the year, a 360º video was produced. Based on particularly enriching information about the Ursulines of Trois-Rivières’ properties gathered from a few of the nuns and on research carried out in the Ursuline monastery archives, a historical guided tour of the Maison blanche was produced, highlighting its former and current uses. It explored the living quarters, the attic, the crypts, etc.

The second project was the development of a platform that shows—in 3D—the evolution of the convent complex over time, including the monastery and the Ursuline school. All of the information presented on the 3D platform, as well as in the 360º video, was integrated into a virtual reality application, thereby transforming the static experience into an immersive one.

The idea is to take visitors on a journey through space and time as they explore the site. Using tablets, touchscreens, or virtual reality headsets, the interactive 3D animation takes visitors to the Ursulines’ convent as it existed in 1715, 1897, 1962, and 2018.

Buildings that had been destroyed—such as the “rooms for the insane,” the farm, and the bakery—are brought back to life through the animation.

Using sectional drawings, the animation also allows visitors to see the interiors of the Maison blanche, from the basement to the attic.

Panoramic images and the 360º video take visitors to the top of the cupola, where they stand alongside St. Michael the Archangel and Lucifer, getting a bird’s-eye view of the chapel.

They are also led through one of the various crypts, into the attic, and into a nun’s room. The video also includes excerpts from a 1947 film showing a procession of nuns in the inner courtyard of the monastery.

As I mentioned earlier, the Ursulines of Trois-Rivières monastery has a very symbolic value for the people of Trois-Rivières. It is the most frequently painted and photographed building, both by professional and amateur artists.

Another example of the site’s importance: in the spring of 2016, Culture Mauricie and its political, economic, and cultural partners initiated the Paysages coups de cœur project, in which the people of the Mauricie region were invited to vote for their favourite landscape.

Seven landscapes were chosen, with the one representing Trois-Rivières featuring Rue des Ursulines and the Ursuline monastery.

It is therefore very important for us to raise awareness of this built heritage of Trois-Rivières. 1699-2018: l'histoire d'une vie is in keeping with the Museum’s mission, while also satisfying the curiosity of our many visitors.

This application does not replace a guided tour of the nuns’ historic chapel or of the inner courtyard. It neither replaces the interaction between a visitor and guide. Rather, it is a complement.

It allows us to show spaces that are not accessible and to explain the use and usefulness of these areas. The close relations between interpreter-guides and visitors are part of the Museum’s DNA, and digital technology will not be used to take this relationship away.

We will now show a brief video about our project to help put you in the mood to visit Trois-Rivières and the Musée des Ursulines.

Thank you.