‘Heartbreaking’: Montreal’s Stewart Museum closes permanently

A view of the Stewart Museum located on Île Sainte-Hélène.

Montreal’s Stewart Museum, which focuses on the European history of North America from the establishment of New France to the present day, announced Tuesday it is closing its doors for good.

The museum’s board of trustees cited “an extremely difficult financial context” coupled with uncertain future prospects as the basis for the decision.

While the coronavirus pandemic and the months-long closure of museums impacted the non-profit’s ability to generate revenue through ticket sales and space rentals, it wasn’t the only contributing factor.

“We’ve lost 95 per cent of our self generated revenues and we don’t foresee that it will be much better in the coming year,” said Suzanne Sauvage, president and CEO of the McCord Stewart Museum.

The museum says it has seen a steady increase in operating costs over the years, as well as a decrease in contributions from various foundations.

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The board also stated in a news release that it has had difficulty attracting clientele due to the museum’s island location on Île Sainte-Hélène.

Read more: McCord Museum in Montreal plans to expand with $180-million revamp

History buffs, however, will be able to continue to enjoy the Stewart Museum’s vast collection via the McCord Museum in downtown Montreal.

Virtual programming, exhibitions and a new digital platform to be launched this fall, are all in the works.

The Stewart and McCord museums merged in 2013, with plans to eventually physically integrate both collections into one location.

According to Sauvage, the closure of the Stewart is jumpstarting the process.

The transfer of the 27,000 artifacts, archival documents and rare books that make up the collection, will take place over the next year.

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The move will allow them to maintain several jobs in the upcoming months and the hope is to limit layoffs by reassigning affected staff to the McCord Museum.

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Sauvage said that while closing the Stewart was a “heartbreaking” decision, the “soul of a museum is its collection.”

The relocation will allow not only for the collection to live on, but also for its founders to be remembered.

Read more: Stewart Museum’s Expo 67 exhibition is a contemporary take on the past

“Fortunately, with the support of our teams, we’ll be able to increase public and research access to this precious collection. We’ll keep alive the legacy of David and Liliane Stewart,” Sauvage said.

Closure of the Stewart Museum is effective immediately. The announcement comes after museums, closed since October 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions, were given the green light to reopen on Feb. 8.

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