50 Museum Marvels

Fascinating objects and unheard-of stories from Canada’s francophone community.

Written by Annick Desmarais, Matthieu Drouin and Anne-Gaëlle Weber

Posted May 17, 2023


These stone tools were used for hunting and warfare.

Frontispiece to the Annals of the Monastère de l’Hôtel-Dieu de Québec

A deathbed memoir captured the early history of New France.

Basque Fisherman's Harpoon

A deadly weapon recalls a merciless hunt.


This navigational instrument may have belonged to French explorer Samuel de Champlain.

Marguerite Bourgeoys’s Travel Trunk

This humble suitcase crossed the Atlantic Ocean seven times.

Incense Shuttle

Pioneering settlers used this fine ceramic vessel for religious devotions.

Jesuit Ring

A brass token served to seal alliances and to propagate the faith.

Mohawk Language Dictionary

A tool of evangelization became a repository of linguistic history.

Nativity-themed Altar Cloth

Ursuline nuns created this elaborate 17th-century brocade.

Saint-Jean de Louisbourg Bell

A kingly gift rang out from a North American fortress. 

Acadian Bonnet

A jaunty head covering became the symbol of a persecuted people.

French Infantry Flag

A rare ensign testifies to the French defeat on the Plains of Abraham.


A fine piece of furniture kept baby safe and warm.

Military Alliance Wampum

A beaded collar secured the relationship between British and Wendat nations.

Métis Violin

A family heirloom set people dancing for nearly two hundred years.

Jean-Baptiste Lagimodière's Sash

A useful belt became a symbol of French-Canadian and Métis cultural identities.

Chatham Winnowing Mill

This nineteenth-century innovation made husking wheat a breeze.

Patriote Petition

Lower Canadians demanded democratic reforms from an unyielding British Crown.

Medicine Spoon

A porcelain utensil symbolizes nursing sisters’ mission to care for the sick.

Note for an Abandoned Child

Infants born out of wedlock were often left to the care of nuns.

Mi'kmaw Purse

Traditional floral motifs decorate a Victorian-era keepsake.

White Sheep

A commercial sign advertised wool, fabric, and tailoring services.

Acadian Flag

This tricolour banner proclaims a unique French-Canadian cultural identity.

Louis Riel's Moccasins

A resistance fighter’s moccasins become a symbol of reconciliation.

Cod Press

A handy contraption to squish fish helped feed Christian Europe.

Huron-Wendat Headdress

An embroidered headpiece shows Wendat artistic ingenuity.

Factory Whistle

The shrill call of industrialization rang out across nineteenth-century Quebec.


These horse-drawn vehicles became part of Canada’s winter iconography.

Captain Joseph-Elzéar Bernier’s Sealskin Outfit

An intrepid navigator asserted Canada’s Arctic sovereignty.

Beer Bottle

The first French-Canadian beer maker dubbed itself the “Brewery of the People.”

Lee-Enfield Rifle

A soldier carved his memories into his First World War weapon.

Cocktail Glass

Pin-up girl stemware embodied jazz-era Montreal.

Dress Worn by La Bolduc

A Depression-era Quebec songstress elevated spirits with her silk finery and joyful tunes.

Prayer Shawl

Harry Cohen is the only known Canadian victim of the Nazi concentration camps. This prayer shawl — or tallit in Hebrew — was among his personal effects that were returned to the Cohen family after the war.

Airplane Nose Art

Decorations on a Second World War bomber recall Quebec’s contribution to the conflict.

RCA-Victor Tube Radio

New technology harnessed the airwaves and brought communities closer together.


CP trainyards were an economic engine for Montreal.

Dishware Set

Parliamentarians partook on patriotic porcelain.

Chinese Mill

A stone relic recalls Quebec City’s once-thriving Chinatown.

Refus global Manifesto

An artist’s essay became a call-to-arms for social change.

Paper Machine

Mass-produced pulp and paper fuelled the golden age of print journalism.

Maurice Richard's Sweater

The Rocket wore this jersey in the 1959 Stanley Cup finals.

Ski-dog Snowmobile

A young Joseph-Armand Bombardier invented this iconic winter vehicle.

Marie Gérin-Lajoie’s Typewriter

A Quebec feminist icon wrote her memoirs on this machine.

Program for Les Belles-soeurs

The 1968 premier of Michel Tremblay’s play riled critics and enthralled audiences.

Expo 67 Hostess Uniform

A Quebec designer created this iconic costume.


Generations of children loved this TV-star puppet.

Black History Month Poster

The roots of Montreal’s Black community reach back four hundred years.

"YES" Button

Quebec sovereignists proclaimed their beliefs with these political pins.

Residential School Student's Suitcase

Ma petite valise de pensionnat bears testament to the trauma inflicted on generations of Indigenous children.

This article originally appeared in 50 Merveilles de nos musées : les plus beaux trésors de la Francophonie Canadienne. The special interest publication was part of Projet Portage, a five-year initiative to connect history lovers in French and English Canada, generously supported by the Molson Foundation.

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