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Exhibition at Château Dufresne

An exhibition called “The School of Yesteryear (1860-1960)” is currently being presented by the Château Dufresne, an exhibition which brings us back to the past. Everyone can find something there: older people, memories and younger people can discover a world which they have never known.  The SNJM’s are very involved in it since they were so committed to the schools in the area where the exhibition is being presented. In fact, they worked in the following schools: St-Nom-de-Marie and St-Nom-de-Jésus, Ste-Jeanne-d'Arc, Nativité, Hudon, Stadaconna which later became Marie-Reine, Eulalie-Durocher, and St. Aloysius as well as in the Hochelaga and Ste-Émélie Boarding Schools.

An exhibition to visit until February 23, 2012

The exhibition consists of two parts.

The first part allows for those from 6 to 55 years of age to discover a world which has disappeared, and for older people to rediscover it: a French Catholic School, with no calculator, television or computer. The preparatory research for the exhibition allowed for many discoveries some of which definitely fuel the current debates on education, especially those regarding boys dropping out and report cards.

The exhibition touches on about ten themes, and immerses us into the religious environment of the schools during that era.  A school where the clergy exercised major influence: the study of catechism and bible history, preparation for the sacraments, academic manuals filled with stories and religious examples, but also numerous extracurricular activities so as to promote the faith (crusaders, Cadets of the Sacred Heart, Young Catholic Students, Children of Mary, etc.).

The exhibition has on display school supplies from this bygone era: pen, ink and blotter, individual slates, single or double desks. One can also see some of the tools used by teachers in olden-day schools: “ditto machine”, typewriter, opaque projector, blackboards for the teaching of history, Bible history and English,
a “revolutionary” technology for the teaching of English (78 speed gramophone), small art gallery, old herbarium, etc.

The exhibition allows for the admiration of a variety of objects used to motivate students: an array of medals and certificates, end-of-year awards dating back a hundred years, holy pictures and stickers (cherubs, stars). All of this without forgetting the ultimate motivator: report cards, which will astonish the supporters as well as the detractors of present-day report cards. The comparison of Catholic and Protestant report cards before 1960 actually holds some big surprises.

Visitors will be able to substantiate whether it is true that the issue of boys dropping out of school can be resolved by creating schools reserved for boys only, with lots of sports and with male teachers.

Finally, this exposition allows for people to admire a magnificent collection of uniforms which the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary have carefully maintained. The oldest uniform dates back to 1874 and the most recent is from the 1950’s.

One can also see a sample representing the impressive collection of academic manuals from the Brothers of the Christian Schools, the most important academic editors before 1960. The oldest manual on display dates back to 1866. The collection comprises manuals for different subjects and different eras, many of which are more than a hundred years old.

The second part is reserved for classes in the 3rd cycle of elementary school (5th and 6th grades). It makes it possible for students to relive a day in a 1930’s classroom, during the time of the Great Depression. On this occasion, the students dress in uniforms from that era. The class is taught by Sister Ida-de-Saint-Antoine, of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, and by Brother Marcellin, of the Christian Schools. These roles are played by Josette Sosa, a retired teacher, and by Roch Aubert, a comedian who has often worked with school groups.

The day in the classroom includes lessons in catechism, bible history, geography, history, etiquette, domestic science as well as exercises in handwriting using a pen and ink. Since lunch is also typical of the lunches of that time, the children would have a buckwheat pancake with molasses.

A publication will complement the exhibition. Published by the Presses de l’Université du Québec, the book which is amply illustrated, is scheduled for publication the first week of November, just before the “Salon du livre de Montréal”.

Photos of the event

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