February 6, 2019 7:50 pm

Grey Nuns want to bring new life to 17th century Montreal historic site

WATCH: The Grey Nuns of Montreal have announced a plan to restore their congregation’s historic buildings in Old Montreal. The project could cost up to $35 million and as Global’s Dan Spector reports, it will require help from all levels of government.

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The Grey Nuns of Montreal want to change one of the city’s oldest buildings into a modern museum and educational centre.

The Youville Mother House, dating from 1693, was originally Montreal’s first general hospital. Afterward, it was the longtime home of the Grey Nuns.

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“Our mission was very much alive in this house for 100 years,” said Sister Aurore Larking, superior general with the Grey Nuns. “It became too small at a certain point, and we moved.”

The nuns own the building, and in conjunction with the Université de Montréal, they now want to revitalize their old home.

“In a time when numerous heritage buildings in Quebec find themselves in a position of fragility, we want to not only protect this historic space, but give a a new life to the Youville Mother House,” said Larking.
“It’s important for to actively contribute to the sharing of our history and our heritage.”
The museum would show off an extensive collection of artifacts, many of which have never been seen by the public.
“Right now, it’s almost impossible for somebody who’s not a university professor to have access to these artifacts,” said Frédéric Bouchard, dean of Arts and Sciences at the Université de Montréal.
The space would also be home to a new state-of-the-art Université de Montréal architecture laboratory.
“This is the right place and the right time for us to train better archaeologists and to make sure all Montrealers have access to their findings,” said Bouchard.

Exhibits would also include the “Room for the Poor,” basically unchanged since the congregation used it to distribute food to the needs in the 17th century. Marguerite Youville’s old room would also be on display. The vaulted cellar, used for storage hundreds of years ago, would be home to artifacts.

The proposed new modern museum and educational centre, called “Espace Marguerite Youville,” is a $35-million project that would rely on government funding. Governments, however, have not yet committed to help funding it.

“We’re ready to move and we’re waiting,” said Larkin.

“It’s something that should be on the list of projects to support,” said Dinu Bumbaru of Heritage Montreal.

Without government support, for now the ambitious project will have to wait.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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