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Building bridges

Strolling silently through the Museum from one display case to the next, we stop before an object that catches our eye. What is the history of this garment? If our desire for information exceeds what is on the label, we are left to our own devices.

The cultural mediator’s role is to build a bridge between visitors and objects. This is how Marianne sums up her work. Thanks to mediators, the experience of exploring museum displays involves human interaction and discussion. It is impossible to put everything on the information labels, so we are there to tell the stories behind the objects, she explains.

Although mediators come from a variety of backgrounds—artists, painters, students of history, art history and fashion design—I am struck by the fact that they are nonetheless driven by a single passion. They all have the same respect for the people they help to discover the Museum. You definitely have to enjoy talking with people and be a good listener, confirms Flavie. Not only do they show respect for others, they also exhibit tremendous curiosity. We are always learning. I think that’s one of the things I like most about working here, confides Louis.

  • <b>Joanna - </b>As a painter, Joanna believes that the mission of a museum, like that of art, is to provide hope and a refuge from pessimism. In her role as cultural mediator, she wants to make people feel better.
  • <b>Marianne - </b>A student of social history at McGill University, Marianne is fascinated by the way in which the structure of our society was influenced by many small, seemingly anecdotal, events.
  • <b>Louis - </b>As a PhD student in history at Université Laval, Louis specializes in the history of New France. He enjoys helping visitors gain a more nuanced understanding of history.
  • <b>Flavie - </b>A historian with a lot of experience facilitating groups, Flavie believes cultural mediation is the perfect combination of her two passions. It is also an opportunity to share her knowledge while meeting new people.
  • <b>Caroline - </b>Caroline's passion is to bring out the stories of objects and, in the process, pay tribute to the women and men who made and used them.

Caroline tells me that she especially enjoys meeting with the children who visit. I have worked with youngsters who didn’t want to leave after spending a week at the Museum. I think that’s wonderful. They’re going to grow up with a positive view of museums. Mediation is therefore a brilliant combination of human interaction and education. You’re always adapting to make the content accessible to visitors, says Joanna with a smile.

In their work, mediators do not merely walk through the museum with visitors, chatting with them. Several of them also help create educational experiences and content.

Marianne, for example, works on the Museum’s outreach project, Sharing our Memories, Our Stories. This intergenerational experience pairs young volunteers with seniors, helping them establish a dialogue using objects from the Museum’s collection. Everyday objects from the past prompt seniors to share stories about their own youth, passing on anecdotes from another time, she explains.

With the pandemic, group tours have been suspended, says Flavie. They have now been adapted to observe the new hygiene measures and will be gradually added to the schedule when the Museum reopens,

Flavie is also working with Louis and another colleague to design virtual tours of the Museum. Although online, they’ll still have the human connection because they’ll be conducted in real time. These will make the Museum accessible to schools miles away from Montreal. And mediators can now build bridges far beyond the walls of the Museum.

Alexis Curodeau-Codère, Factry intern
Alexis roams the Museum meeting people who, each in their own way, shape the institution and bring it to life.
October 2020

Not to be missed!