Can the damages of colonial power in museums be reversed?

Museums continue to hoard the history of colonized countries

Since 1802, the Rosetta Stone has been on display in the British Museum after being taken from Egypt during Napoleon Bonaparte’s occupation. 

The Rosetta Stone, along with thousands of stolen historical artifacts, is symbolic of the long lasting effects of colonialism still being suffered today. It serves as a reminder of the ways colonialism lives on, and how museums promote it through their unethical practices.   

The Stone is inscribed with text from three different languages: Ancient Greek, Demotic, and Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. It was used to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphs for the first time, unlocking a plethora of new information about Ancient Egypt. 

Two hundred years later, Egypt still suffers the loss of this piece of their history. It makes me rethink how these stolen artifacts and colonizer attitudes disrupt national identity and pride. 

Last year, Egyptologist Dr. Monica Hanna launched a petition urging the public to speak up for the artifact to be returned. Zahi Hawass, Egyptian archeologist and former minister of state for antique affairs, has been working tirelessly since 2002 to repatriate stolen artifacts and put an end to the unethical purchasing of artifacts by museums. 

The Concordian spoke with University of Southern California researcher Jumana Behbahani about the Rosetta Stone being kept in the British Museum. She criticized the display as a result of a history of cultural violence: British visitors can celebrate a piece of history as if it’s their own, while Egyptians remain stripped of their accessibility to a vital piece of their history.

“Keeping these artifacts in western countries, in a way, represents the ways in which these countries stripped the areas they colonized of their respective cultures.” 

As social historian and Concordia professor Dr. Lucie Laumonier noted, “Back then, Egypt was culturally plundered and its stolen historical artifacts inundated the European markets […] the return of the Rosetta Stone to Egypt would be a way, from the English side, to acknowledge this colonial cultural plunder.” 

However, some have argued that the British Museum is the best location for the Rosetta Stone, claiming that Egypt is a vital part of European heritage, and crediting European historians with deciphering the Stone which would have otherwise not been possible.

Dr. Laumonier criticizes this line of thinking. “The people who belong to the country from which artifacts were stolen during the colonial times deserve as much, if not more, to be able to access these artifacts,” she said. “Historical artifacts are essential in asserting national identity and pride, and to be aware of one’s history.”  

Along with that, many of the artifacts in the British Museum’s possession were taken forcibly, and nearly all of them aren’t even on display but are instead kept in the museum’s private archives that the public doesn’t have access to. 

The British Museum is no unique case of the capitalist incentive of museums profiting from colonial power. The idea of displaying historically significant artifacts somewhere other than their country of origin seems inherently colonialist, especially when it signifies a period of struggle and war crimes. 

Museums such as The Getty in Los Angeles, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York,  the Louvre in Paris, and the Humboldt Forum in Berlin are notorious for hoarding looted artifacts and claiming entitlement over them because they are “the spoils of war.” This doctrine, however, has been rejected by international law. 

These museums can look to other institutions for compromises over stolen artifacts. 

Museums around the world have displayed efforts of decolonization, unveiling possibilities of engaging with colonized communities with their permission and respect granted. For example, the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago invited Indigenous artists to showcase their work in their Native American galleries. Indigenous communities can be celebrated and studied without taking away from them. 

The Australian Museum in Sydney rethought its relationship to the artifacts in their museum when they shifted ownership of the artifacts to the “custodians of those collections, with an obligation to the peoples who created the objects and stories, and to their descendants,” as stated by former Museum Director Frank Howarth. 

The display of these artifacts appears enriching and informative to its visitors, but when the items are a byproduct of cultural violence, charging people to come see them is exploitative in its nature. The Rosetta Stone should be housed in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, where Egyptian people can celebrate and engage with their history and culture. It belongs to them and not strictly to those who have the luxury of flying to London and visiting the British Museum. 

The British Museum has been called upon multiple times to return The Rosetta Stone, but have yet to respond to requests.
The matter extends beyond the value of a tangible object; it’s a concern of national identity being stripped away in the name of colonialism. The Stone symbolizes the colonized world and its relationship to the colonizer, one that arguably still exists.


The Concordian editors unleash their inner art critics

Bringing you our favourite online art experiences

What makes a museum experience memorable when… well, when you can’t actually go to the museum? After most institutions closed last month, hundreds of art museums around the globe have made their collections accessible online for free. With the opportunity to browse museums all around the world, how does one choose where to go first?

From the UK to Japan, our staff has compiled a list of our favourite pieces, exhibitions and virtual tours for you to experience. While some choices are based on interest and desire to learn, others are based on memories and personal sentiment. Regardless, read on for some insightful, personable and critical responses to art around the world. Enjoy your time at the Concordian Art Gallery.

The Concordian Art Gallery’s first-ever exhibition investigates the appeal of an artwork through a critical approach. The works, which date from the 19th to the 21st century, depict histories both personal and collective. From the ecclesiastical etchings at the Rijksmuseum to Migishi Kōtarō’s abstract compositions, the featured works draw upon personal experiences to explore our relationship with art. Although eclectic, the ensemble of works invites viewers to reflect on their history and memories and how they interrelate with art.

Matthew Coyte, Managing Editor 

Anonymous English School. Commander Robert R. Bastin. Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery. Exeter, England.

I picked this museum because it’s one that I’ve had my eye on for a while. My family is originally from Devon, England, so I’ve always wanted to visit, and the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery have been on my mind as well. This painting of a relatively unknown man just connected with me because he looks like my grandfather who passed away this summer. I guess everything just came full circle from my interest in connecting with my family’s roots to this piece.

Lola Cardona, Assistant Video Editor

Women Hold Up More Than Half The Sky. Glasgow Women’s Library. Glasgow, Scotland.

From the online exhibit “Sisterhood is Powerful: UK Posters” at the Glasgow Women’s Library.

I like this piece because of its simplicity, both in its colour and its message. The orange and the blue creates a visually pleasing image and the photograph itself is interesting to look at because of the subject. In it, women are working from extreme heights on what looks like a bridge. The caption “women hold up more than half the sky” seems to be promoting the fact that women work as hard, if not harder than their male counterparts. I see this image as a statement about women in the workforce, in particular, making sure women have equal job opportunities and are recognized for their accomplishments.

Chloë Lalonde, Arts Editor 

Masayoshi Nakamura, Man and Woman. 1963. Colour on paper. Nagoya City Art Museum. Nagoya, Japan.

Kōtarō Migishi, Composition: Still Life with Fireplace. 1933. Oil on canvas. Nagoya City Art Museum. Nagoya, Japan.

I initially wanted to do the Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg, but I was so thrown off by the palace and had no attention span for the work it contained. The museum is massive, with three floors of rooms upon rooms and all sorts of halls. It was truly incredible, but no specific artwork caught my eye. But it did spark a desire to be a Russian princess. I realized that I wanted to stumble upon something fresh, something I had no idea existed. I was aware of the Hermitage before this.

I came across the Nagoya City Art Museum (NCAM) on Google Arts & Culture, and its feature image caught my eye. I didn’t recognize the artist, and barely had any idea what it was I was even looking at. Perfect. Turns out it was a Frida Kahlo, Girl with Death Mask. The painting depicts Kahlo’s would-be daughter. I was struck by her white face, full of horror, contrasted with light blues, pastel pinks and Easter yellows.

Among the 50 or so pieces in the NCAM’s collection, two more pieces stood out to me. Masayoshi Nakamura’s Man and Woman (1963) and Kōtarō Migishi’s Composition: Still Life with Fireplace (1933), for two very different reasons.

I immediately felt repelled, but not repulsed, by Nakamura’s painting. The way the paint pools in matte, layered splotches to create the base for the man and woman’s faces immediately reminded me of dried, flaking tempera paint, which gives me this nails-on-a-chalkboard feeling. But the painting itself feels relatable, childlike, as though Nakamura sketched on eyes as a last-minute thought. The swift black ink, like smudged eyeliner, blurs the lines between the man and the woman, and you can only theorize who is whom. My favourite parts are the big blotchy noses. I love the way the paint cakes up to create a shape. While most paint is quite fluid, sometimes it is lumpy, thick or even creamy. This kind of paint allows you to sculpt with it, like scraping plaster onto a wall, smoothing it out in circles to create ridges, keeping each scrape visible. This painting feels distraught, violent. It feels last-minute, not that big of a deal. I like that.

Migishi’s still life is an aesthetic choice. Now, this is the kind of art I’d like to make in isolation. I’m a big fan of line work, big wobbly shapes and juxtaposing neutrals with bright primary colours. I like the hint of recognition—I spy a wine glass, a bunch of grapes and a fireplace— and the rest is up to your imagination.

Cecilia Piga, Assistant Photo Editor

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, De predikende Christus (De Honderdguldenprent). Rijksmuseum. Amsterdam, Netherlands.

I chose Rijksmuseum because it’s from one of the museums I’m most excited to visit during my exchange in Amsterdam next semester, fingers crossed! I’ve always been intrigued by the tools and process behind etching, so I was drawn to this piece as soon as I recognized the marks on the print. I love the contrast and texture of this printing technique. What I like the most is the intricate level of detail the artists put into a small print.

Lillian Roy, Assistant Life Editor

Elsa Schiaparelli: Jackets. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, United States.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a few virtual exhibits available on Google Arts and Culture. Interestingly, a lot of them have to do with the MET’s fashion collections, ranging from late-nineteenth-century footwear to contemporary labels like Comme des Garçons. My favourite collection features vintage dinner jackets designed by Elsa Schiaparelli, an Italian designer who got her start in the early 20th century. I love how the crisp, tailored silhouettes contrast with the elaborate designs and flashy colours, combining elements that are both masculine and feminine. With its jewel tones and stunning embroidery, I found this green jacket to be particularly eye-catching.

Aviva Majerczyk, Copy Editor

Adam Mickiewicz as a Pilgrim, Jan Styka. National Museum. Krakow, Poland.

I chose the National Museum in Krakow because I was supposed to study in the city this summer, before the world as we know it descended into chaos. Additionally, I thought it could be interesting to learn more about my personal Polish heritage. So, I was glad to see that the museum had a large digital collection with many online exhibitions. I chose Independence, a collection of Polish works based on the political notions of 20th-century socialist statesman Józef Piłsudski, which was presented to celebrate the centennial of the independence of the Republic of Poland in 2018. This exhibition is very patriotic in tone, highlighting Poland’s constant struggle against outside occupation. As would be expected from a state-sponsored collection, there were plenty of busts of leaders and paintings of glorious battles. Yet, the piece that struck me most was Adam Mickiewicz as a Pilgrim by Jan Styka. Mickiewicz was a romantic poet and activist in the 19th century, who is often called Poland’s greatest poet. The painting shows Mickiewicz holding a staff and looking up at an ominous cloudy sky. His figure is sharp and detailed against the wash of colour behind him. This piece makes Mickiewicz appear to be almost holy— like a Moses figure. From this, it is obvious that he is greatly revered in Polish history. Overall, Independence was a great gateway to Polish history. It definitely sent me down a few Wikipedia rabbit holes to learn more about the mentioned leaders and uprisings.

Virginie Ann, News Editor 

Widad Kawar, TIRAZ. Amman, Jordan.

As I scrolled down the list of virtual exhibits available on Google Arts and Culture, my eyes were caught by the title “home for Arab dress.” It reminded me of my time in Morocco, during Ramadan, when my girlfriends and I went to pick some beautiful traditional caftans. There is something truly simple, yet very graceful, about this type of clothing— which ends up making you feel very elegant. So, I chose to visit the virtual Widad Kawar collection from Tiraz museum in Jordan. The collection contains over 2000 costumes and jewelry, which both hold an important place in Middle Eastern art and history. My favourite exhibition ended up being Ya Hafeth Ya Ameen: Protective silver jewellery from the Middle East, which brings the viewer into Jordan, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen and Oman. The mix of text, 360-degree photos and the zoom option allows for an immersive experience, which I personally find more interesting than just staring at a computer screen.

Learning history through jewelry is quite unique. The exhibition approaches how conflict, migration and even politics have an influence on dress and jewellery creation. I loved reading about the superstitious meanings of jewelry and their connection with divine and mystical forces through various forms of protection, such as talismans. Our own disconnection, even complete rejection, of religion here in Quebec makes it hard for some people to understand that sense of belief. But, call me naive, I love believing that carrying something such as a piece of jewelry can be meaningful. I think it reinforces a sense of community, an aspect that is greatly present in the Arab world. The most common protection jewelry against the Evil Eye is the Hand of Fatima, dating back thousands of years. Yet, capitalism has transformed it into something you can now purchase in any form, without understanding its background.

As someone who has a strong interest in the history of the Middle East, I was happy to find this short exhibition, which made me calmly travel over the Arabian Peninsula, while sipping on my second Stout during the global pandemic.

“What if in an unsure world – a world in which your family depend on a good harvest for survival, and sickness can easily lead to death – amulets provided a sense of comfort and control, and talismans offered a connection to the mystical powers that seemed to govern your life, but which you can’t always see?” – Tiraz Widad Kawar home for Arab dress

Lorenza Mezzapelle, Assistant Arts Editor

Paul Getty Museum. California, United States.

I spent a good two weeks trying to find a specific artwork that I would want to talk about and share. Ultimately, trying to navigate museums virtually just didn’t cut it for me, as I found it to be much too distracting and too difficult to actually read the accompanying texts. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised at how simple it was to navigate J. Paul Getty Museum’s online platform. They offer a variety of ways to interact with numerous artworks, and rather than offering a virtual tour, viewers can scroll through an exhibition in chronological order, on a webpage. In addition to offering their exhibitions online, the museum has made hundreds of books in their Virtual Library available… for free! From architecture to critical theory, their selection is unparalleled. Some of my favourites included Cezanne in the Studio: Still Life in Watercolors and Otto Wagner: Reflections on the Raiment of Modernity, which I intend on reading in their entirety after handing in my finals.

While most of the exhibitions I scrolled through were interesting, I personally enjoyed Bauhaus: Building the New Artist: it was easy to scroll through, informative and read in the same way as walking through an exhibition space from start to finish. Each part of the exhibition features an interactive exercise, including one based on Kandinsky’s theory that shapes correspond to colour. My favourite part of the exhibition was definitely the “Learning with Albers” segment, which provides a brief, but insightful overview of Josef Albers’ influence on the Bauhaus movement and on studies of materiality. The text is accompanied by annotated notebook pages of various Bauhaus students which illustrate their studies via journal entries and photographs.



Feature graphic by @sundaeghost.


Museums and cultural institutions cancelled due to the Coronavirus outbreak

What impact will museum closures have on the art world?

Museums are places we go to learn, engage and explore. They are responsive and have the power to host a dynamic conversation with contemporary society. After the awakening from their somnolence through the 20th century, (most) museums are now self-conscious and mindful, acting as reflexive civil organizations. Alongside art fairs and biennials, the art world relies on the works presented at these institutions to determine the themes and artists of the next year’s cultural programming.

In light of the COVID-19 global pandemic, much of the world has ground to a sudden halt, due to social distancing to slow the spread of the virus. Art events were some of the first things to be affected by government recommendations to limit social gatherings, and museums swiftly followed suit, with a variety of responses.

Government warnings have issued different plans of action for museums around the world, either ordering them to close or leaving the message vague on whether shutting down is necessary. Int he UK, Geraldine Adams of the Museum Association noted, “some culture professionals are calling on institutions that remain open to take matters into their own hands and close immediately to protect public health,” even though many governments around the world are not calling on them to do so.

Globally, the list of museum closures and event postponement is extensive. Many are closing for a minimum of two weeks, some indefinitely. There are too many to name here, so visit the artnet news website  or this Google doc for the full list.

Annual art festivals are the most affected. They invite a global audience into one space, boost the tourism sector, the economy, and the veneration of ideas and artists. Postponements to cultural events include the Venice Biennale, which has cut three months of its programming, Art Basel’s Swiss Fair (after cancelling Art Basel Hong Kong) and Frieze New York, which has fully cancelled its summer 2020 programming.

In Montreal, all major museums have closed. To name a few, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, the Pointe-à-Callière Montréal Archaeology and History Complex will all be closed until March 30. The Canadian Centre for Architecture has closed until further notice, the Montreal Holocaust Museum will be closed until April 17, and The McCord Museum has closed for a minimum of two weeks.

Economic and labour effects

As much as it pains us all to admit it, cultural institutions do not run purely on the exchange of knowledge. Museums are able to function based on government funding, private investment or ticket sales. They act as major employers and nodes of economic exchange. Most public institutions will continue to receive government funding during this time, but what about the independent organizations, where revenue from visitation helps keep them afloat? There have been calls by the Museum Association to redirect funds from cancelled festivals and events across the world to help bail out museums in need.

This is affecting the already underpaid employees of many in the cultural field. The Los Angeles Times reported that many museums across the US have not laid off part-time and hourly staff, and planned to pay them until April 1—but after that, regular employment is uncertain, as they cannot know how the situation will develop. Many museums are using this opportunity to ask staff to aid in the development of new engagement techniques and online resources, rather than leaving all the work to the salaried employees, which could potentially restructure the archaic organizational hierarchies entrenched in many business models.

The New York Times reported that the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is “reallocating discretionary resources usually used for acquisitions and programming toward operating expenses, fund-raising from foundations and donors and pursuing government assistance” to help mitigate the long-term financial impacts of COVID-19. As one of the most influential museums in the US, and arguably the world, it is thought that this will set the precedent for many other institutions, but this raises the question, what will happen with the artwork shown in the museums? Will there be fewer exhibitions, educational resources, and artists presented?

New initiatives

Many museums have been using this weird moment to get creative with how they engage their audiences on social media. The Museum From Home hashtag on Instagram and Twitter shows  highlights from gallery collections to create a pseudo-archive of the moment. Also, one of the trends that have been keeping me sane throughout the pandemic is the Museum Moment of Zen hashtag on Twitter. From cats to Monet paintings, many museums and galleries have been partaking in this wholesome hashtag. I, for one, can finally say that I have seen one of Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room because of it, as the Broad Museum live-streamed the exhibit on their Instagram.

Some larger museums have, over the past few years, utilized new technology to provide virtual tours that are more important than ever in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 500 institutions teamed up with Google Arts & Culture to open their doors to the internet community, providing a museum-going experience from the comfort of your home. Canada also runs a national Virtual Museum shared by museums and cultural heritage organizations. Smaller initiatives, like the Social Distance Gallery (@socialdistancegallery), have taken to Instagram to make sure student thesis shows are not lost in the transition to digitization.

The Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) posed the question last year, “is a database a museum?” With the digitization of all mediums of information, we could argue yes, so the learning aspects of museum-going may not be lost. However, the one-off educational workshops and experiential learning aspects cannot be excluded from the conversation and will take efforts on all ends to reach its potential.

It is not all bleak; more than 180 museums in China reopened this week after extended closures. According to Artnet, they have strict health measures in place, with most requiring visitors to submit their health code—a mandatory metric of tracking a person’s risk level. The museums are limiting the number of visitors, and some, including the Power Station of Art in Shanghai, have emergency quarantine areas set up on each floor.

But how can museums act as lighthouses for the current dystopian play we find ourselves in?

Museums should be working with the complex societal paradoxes we find ourselves in to make them accessible and digestible for a wide audience. Although this has mostly been done with a predominantly white eurocentric bias until the 21st century, the COVID-19 outbreak could be an opportunity to plan exhibits that reflect on the government, social, and economic inadequacies exposed by the global pandemic. From the necessity of universal basic income to drinking water issues in Indigenous communities to inept health care systems, this could be the time for mass institutional change and reflexivity in what they show and the ways they do so.

As Eunice Bélidor, a Montreal-based curator, critic and researcher, states in her latest curatorial tip; “In this moment of COVID-19 crisis, where access to cultural and art institutions are forbidden, curators have to find alternatives to a) keep presenting exhibitions b) pay artists. One of the best ways out there is to present online exhibitions, which currently are the only thing we have access to.”

There is light at the end of the tunnel; accessibility, new media and more creativity in museum engagement, so stay inside and happy viewing. Share your digital art experience with us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook at @TheConcordian. 




Feature graphic by Sasha Axenova, Museum Cancellations gif by Chloë Lalonde and screenshot from Google Arts and Culture.



Egyptian striptease: mummies and museography at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

A dive into the ancient Egyptians’ lives and a peek through their wrappings

Open until the end of March at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the exhibit Egyptian Mummies: Exploring Ancient Lives presents the daily life of Ancient Egypt through the eyes of six individuals who lived between 900 BCE to the second century CE.

But there is more than just mummies, 3D scans of the mummies yield high-quality imagery of what is hidden underneath the strips of linen for visitors to explore.

“Exploring Ancient Lives”

The Museum of Fine Arts has put its own twist on the exhibition, originally curated by the British Museum in London, England. Each room connects to the mummy of an individual, which in turn is associated with a theme—music for a female singer, family life for a two-year-old mummified boy, religion for a priest and so forth.

Throughout each room, the public discovers the quotidian Egyptian life, from diet and religion to embalming and wigs. The exhibition showcases beautiful artifacts, mummies and their adorned sarcophaguses.

There is no shortage of historical artifacts to see at the Museum of Fine Arts. The exhibition’s curators have succeeded in showing visitors what everyday life in Ancient Egyptian was like.

Room devoted to music and beauty. Egyptian Mummies: Exploring Ancient Lives. Photo © MMFA, Denis Farley

Under the Wrappings

For nearly 40 years, researchers have scanned mummies using computer tomography (CT scan) to avoid damaging them when unwrapping their bodies. CT scanning yields 3D images of the dead and of the artifacts laying under the strips of linen.

Although non-invasive, this technique has some pitfalls when it comes to interpreting the images the computer creates. The main limitation of CT scans is that the analysis of the images only rarely enable researchers to distinguish between ante—and postmortem traumas—the latter resulting from the mummification process.

The exhibit includes a short video that shows each mummy’s digital unwrapping. Brief text boxes provide information about the discoveries made on the bodies. The six videos are very instructive, even if they’re repetitive once you have seen a couple.

This technique and its video rendering are central to the exhibition. The British Museum and the Museum of Fine Art claim that CT scanning provides a new perspective on these ancient histories. Arguably, it’s not that new.

A decade ago, the same technology was used at the Musée de la Civilisation in Québec city for another mummy exhibition. At the time, it was indeed exceptional—there was only one CT scanning rendering of a mummy, that was displayed in its own section of the exhibition.

The 3D technology is certainly informative and should reel in visitors, but it might not be the showstopper it is designed to be.

CT Scanning yields images of the body underneath the wrappings. Egyptian Mummies: Exploring Ancient Lives. Photo © MMFA, Denis Farley

Museums in the Digital Age

Museums have embraced digital technologies and multimedia tools to raise visitors’ engagement. The Egyptian Mummies: Exploring Ancient Lives exhibition is a good example of the inclusion of new technologies.

Besides the CT scanning, the Museum of Fine Arts has partnered with Ubisoft. The video games company has provided a row of computers where visitors can play an educative version of Assassin’s Creed Origins, set in Ancient Egypt.

However, there are other avenues to explore and innovate in museography.

Research shows that immersive and multisensory exhibitions are one path worth exploring to engage visitors with a topic, stimulate their interest and provoke emotional responses.

The curators of Egyptian Mummies have experimented with this immersive approach through the occasional use of ambient sounds and lighting effects. But they have not fully embraced it.

More could have been done to engage the public on a multisensory level and give visitors the impression that they are, indeed, “exploring ancient lives.” Yet, the exhibition is definitely worth a visit––you will learn a lot and there are so many beautiful and informative things to see. The Egyptian Mummies: Exploring Ancient Lives exhibition is open until March 29.



Feature photo: A faux stonewall representing the entrance of a temple, lighting effects and Nile sounds welcome the visitors. Egyptian Mummies: Exploring Ancient Lives. Photo © MMFA, Denis Farley 

Student Life

Looking for cute winter date ideas?

During the warmer months, there are so many cute date ideas: going to a driving range, walking by the river, having a picnic in a park, taking a bike ride in a quaint neighbourhood, etc. But what about the winter? While it may seem more difficult to come up with cute date ideas when it’s cold outside, Montreal actually has a lot to offer other than your basic dinner/drinks and/or a movie. With Valentine’s Day not far away and my love life being more void than a black hole, I took on the hard task of finding fun activities for your winter dates and compiled a list for you.

For the outdoor activity lovers

I hate winter so these don’t feel natural for me but I am aware that many people enjoy spending time outside, regardless of the weather. 

  1. Lace up those skates! Montreal has so many skating rinks (Canada, duh) that you can go to for a cute date. From large outdoor rinks like the one in the Old Port, Beaver Lake or Centre de la Nature in Laval, to your assortment of small neighbourhood rinks or indoor arenas like Atrium Le 1000, a sheet of ice isn’t too far away. Or, you know, you can just wait for freezing rain and skate on the street the next day.
  2. Take a hike. Really. It may not be the most ~intense~ hike of your life, but trekking up Mount Royal to get to the Belvedere in the snow might be enough physical activity for one date. You can do it for the hike or for the cute view at the top—stargazing and all that good stuff, you know? You can also go snowshoeing or cross country skiing around Mount Royal Park or, again, at Centre de la Nature if you’re up for taking a short trip north (it’s really not that far).
  3. Take it slow. If you like the outdoors but aren’t super into the more strenuous activities mentioned above, you can always take a stroll in the Old Port or downtown. Go cafe hopping, do some people watching, do an improvised architecture tour of the city—so many options!

For the indoor activity lovers

If being outside for longer than the time it takes to get from inside a building to inside a vehicle sounds dreadful, fear not. There are plenty of cute date activities for you too!

  1. Chat it up. If you want to spend a lot of time talking to the person you’re on a date with, you have quite a few options. These are kind of miscellaneous but somehow all related: escape rooms, axe throwing, batting cage, rage rooms, indoor roller rinks, karaoke, or attend a cooking class. 
  2. Let’s get competitive. If you and/or your date are more competitive in nature, there are plenty of options for date ideas in the city—it just so happens you can be in close proximity to your date while potentially kicking their butt. For a one-stop-shop, the Forum is a great place to play pool, try your luck at arcade games or go bowling. If not, there are plenty of mini-putt locations around the city. If you really want to stay away from any physical activity at all, Randolph’s—the board game place—is a great option to get a bit of friendly competition going.
  3. Get around. If you want to go on a date but also explore some cool spots in the city, you also have a few options. If you’re into this kind of stuff, going to record shops, bookstores or vintage/thrift stores to peruse their collections will likely be a fun time and you might even find a rare gem. You might also be able to create an impromptu photoshoot out of it—for the ‘gram!

For the artsy types

Whether you like looking at art or making it, these are for you.

  1. Do it yourself. Ceramic Cafe is a great place to spend time chatting and getting to know someone while also getting your art on. Whether you make something for the other person or even work on a larger piece together, it’s a great option for bringing out the creative side of you. Another option is to attend a wine and paint night.
  2. Be the observer. If you can appreciate art but aren’t really into making some of your own, there are so many museums you can attend. Pro tip: the first Sunday of every month, there’s a variety of museums that offer free admission. There’s also the Montreal Science Centre in the Old Port or the Biodome that you can visit.
  3. Catch a show. I don’t mean a television show; I mean go to theatrical performance, go to a jazz bar or even a comedy show. And, I guess, if all else fails, you can just make a fort in your living room with all the cushions and blankets available on the block and put on a new series.


Graphic by Sasha Axenova

Shining a neon light on the history of ink

At Tattoo Box Traditional, you’ll learn about more than just tattoo aftercare

Decked out in blown up portraits of World War I veterans and acetates dating back to the early 1900s, the walls of recently opened Tattoo Box Traditional tell a story. Artist Kate Middleton, living in France and working out of Montreal, began construction at Tattoo Box Traditional in August of last year. Originally meant to combat construction planned on Pine Ave. W., where her primary shop is located, she’s now hoping for the new location to double as a tattoo museum.

Artist Liam Lavoie tattoos his colleague on a quiet day at Tattoo Box Traditional. Photo by Victoria Lewin.

Collecting historical acetates and framed prints from artists she’s worked with over her career, Middleton has adorned the shop with bits and pieces of tattoo history. While the location only opened this summer, Owen Jensen, Sailor Jerry, Walter Torun, Zeke Owens and Jack Rudy are just a few noteworthy mentions who’s artwork can already be seen at Tattoo Box Traditional. Middleton said she’s only just getting started, “I have so much memorabilia that I have yet to get in there.”

Middleton holds up the sketchbook of renowned artist Zeke Owens, who tattooed service men and women during and pre-war. Photo by Victoria Lewin.

While residing in Avignon, France, Middleton also runs Livre and Let Die Books and Art Supplies on Pine Ave. E., as well as a small media studio out of California, her hometown. Ensuring the shop promotes a safe and open space for staff and clientele is one of Middleton’s top priorities. Being a female and lesbian tattoo artist, she said “misogyny is the biggest hurdle I’ve ever had to overcome, in myself and facing it from others. That needs to be ended before anyone or any gay woman can progress in their life.” Though the essence of Middleton’s vision is to showcase tattoo history, artwork that is traditionally misogynistic, racist, and otherwise offensive won’t make the cut in this tattoo museum.

An acetate from the early 1900s by famous American tattoo artist Paul Rogers. Photo by Victoria Lewin.

As a lesbian woman, Middleton works hard to ensure the shop maintains an open, safe space for all LGBTQ+ individuals. Photo by Victoria Lewin.

Artists work on various projects during the snowstorm in Montreal on Feb. 13. Photo by Victoria Lewin.

The shop offers free breast cancer ribbon and semicolon tattoos, symbolizing depression. Photo by Victoria Lewin.

Shop decor includes walls of art from various artists Middleton has met and worked with over the years. Photo by Victoria Lewin.


Tattoo Box Traditional is located at 1757 Amherst St. More information can be found on their website:

Photos by Victoria Lewin.


A prescription for the museum

Art therapy is a better way to approach mental health issues, not a trip to a museum

According to CNN, doctors in Scotland have been handing out “nature” prescriptions to patients with depression and high blood pressure amid evidence that spending time outdoors and getting in touch with nature helps ease symptoms. I personally do not find this difficult to believe, as someone who experiences anxiety and depression and has been treated for both. What I do find difficult to believe, however, is a prescription to the museum.

Montreal doctors, in partnership with the Museum of Fine Arts, will now give out “museum prescriptions,” citing the benefits of cultural experiences on mental health and wellness, according to Global News. I believe it’s important to first examine the evidence supporting the impact of art and nature on mental health. I am all for certain forms of nature therapy, though I hesitate to embrace museum therapy.

It may be beneficial to prescribe a patient with a trip to the museum to help them get through what they’re experiencing, until a proper diagnosis can be determined. However, I believe that immediately medicating when further examination is needed isn’t the best route, especially if other forms of treatment can help. If the symptoms are mild, or if used alongside other treatments in more severe cases, I think the suggestion of getting closer to nature holds merit.

A psychiatrist suggested I purchase a SAD lamp, which mimics natural light to help symptoms of seasonal and non-seasonal depression while I awaited further evaluation. I found this to be helpful. Maybe fresh air and real natural light can have similar or better effects, especially given the implied exercise. Exercise is known to increase blood flow and release endorphins, improving mental and physical health, sleep, appetite, libido and quality of life for people suffering from mild-to-moderate depression, ADHD and anxiety.

Doctor Diane Poirier representing Médecins Francophones du Canada in the Global News article said the study is a pilot project that involved the museum doing research on the benefits art has on mental health. The act of prescribing a trip to the museum is not art therapy given by a licensed art therapist. It’s also not nature exposure or physical activity, both of which have evidence that supports their effectiveness. Art therapy is supervised by professionals who have training to assist the patient, whereas a trip to the museum is self managed. Although I can’t say it isn’t effective, I think it’s important to not call it therapy, as unlike nature exposure or physical activity, it’s doesn’t have an immediate range of effects nor is it supervised by a professional.

Art therapy with an art therapist can have evidence-supported benefits, according to several studies. In my opinion, however, this doesn’t just entail sending patients to the Musée des Beaux Arts de Montréal (MBAM) to stare at some Renaissance paintings and stop feeling empty inside. Most kinds of therapy, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) and art therapy are guided by professionals. Going outdoors is patient-managed, but there are observable physical effects to exercising and being outdoors. If the patient is offered other options but chooses museum therapy, so be it. I would still hope medical professionals suggest treatments that have more effectiveness first. It was not specified how doctors will determine whether a museum prescription is a good option, and when they will prescribe more effective treatments versus participation in this study.

I wonder what would happen if psychologists and therapists were accessible and covered by Medicare, given that waitlists for mental health services at the CLSC are terrible and resources at schools can vary based on demand. People suffering from depression are navigating a very difficult system and can spend a lot of time going back and forth until properly diagnosed. It may do patients a disservice if they do a study rather than be offered effective treatment, unless this is truly what the patients want.

Even if the museum trips work to an extent, art therapy itself has proven benefits. Therapy administered and followed by a professional is structured and effective, yet incredibly difficult to access. The museum therapy idea appears to be a way to mimic some of the results of art therapy without providing a patient access to a professional. The government needs to put more funding into mental health services. When everyone has a range of accessible options, they have better chances of hitting the mark.

Graphic by Ana Bilokin


Montreal begins plans for rock ‘n’ roll museum

The Clover Boys, along with other Rock ‘n’ Roll bands from Quebec in the ‘50s will be featured at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Museum. Photo courtesy of Patrice Caron

Names like The Beau Marks and Les Megatones might not be familiar to today’s music fans, but come summer, Patrice Caron and his team at Le Musée du Rock ’n’ Roll are going to make sure that we get to know these Canadian music pioneers. With a large-scale exhibition and a subsequent tour in the works, the Rock ’n’ Roll Museum will be bringing the genre’s history to contemporary music fans. But for those who wish to get a taste of what’s to come, the group will be hosting four fundraising efforts to help get the project off the ground, starting this Thursday at Le Divan Orange.

Though the idea of opening a museum may be, as Caron put it, a “daft” idea, the members’ passion for music and their combined experiences in the local scene makes preserving the province’s heritage a personal affair.

“I’ve written for fanzines in the past and I always tried to write something pertaining to our rock history. But I noticed that a lot of people didn’t have any knowledge about the local scene. For most it seemed that before Arcade Fire there hadn’t been anything else,” explained Caron. “So we decided to start a small-scale museum that would feature the birth of rock ‘n’ roll. But when we started to research the topic we found so much information that we decided to expand the project to a full-scale museum.”

But to get the ball rolling, Caron and his team are busy getting the word out. “The fundraising event is of course about getting a little bit of money to help finance our first show, but really it’s about letting people know that this is happening,” said Caron. This first exhibition, which will run from June to July, will be held in St-Henri’s Corona Theatre and will focus on the birth of rock ‘n’ roll in Quebec.

A music historian of sorts, Caron’s head is full of obscure facts about the province’s rock past.

In a dizzying soliloquy of names, places and genres, he sketched the landscape of 1950s music. According to Caron, the birth of rock in the province began with Elvis Presley, who was featured on the Quebec charts 100 times in the first 10 years of his career. From this rose the first francophone and anglophone Quebecois bands, who adopted Presley’s rockabilly swagger. “Presley was the Eminem of rock ‘n’ roll,” said Caron. “He brought black music to the white kids.” Soon local bands began to form, which the museum team has arranged under three categories: anglophone, francophone and African-American.

Through the forthcoming exhibit, the team will attempt to show these three facets of

early Quebec rock. With a recreation of a famous venue that has since been shut down, and video footage courtesy of Radio-Canada, the exposition promises to be a multimedia affair.

Yet this project was not created solely to entertain the public, as Caron explained. “The people who were part of this scene are getting older and a lot of them have given their stuff away. So we’re trying to start some sort of archiving system. There hasn’t really been an initiative to organize Quebec heritage so we’re trying to help facilitate the sharing of historical information.”

By creating a database and putting information on the web, the group hopes to get a more cohesive inventory of Quebec’s rock history.

Not to say that acquiring artifacts has been a boring task. From original albums to old guitars, Caron admitted that “when you get a really unique object, the rock lover in you can’t help but get really excited. It’s like touching history.”

Which is why the preservation of cultural heritage is so important. And with the upcoming exhibit and the blueprints for a future museum, le Musée du Rock ‘n’ Roll hopes to do just that.

Fundraiser Le Divan Orange Thursday Feb. 17 at 9 PM. See website at for more information or go to their Facebook page to share your pictures, stories and recordings.

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