The saga of a collection

Jean-Marie Gauvreau, the first Canadian graduate of the famous École Boulle in Paris, is commissioned in 1930 to organize a cabinet making course at the École technique de Montréal. He is disappointed by what he discovers in Québec. What has happened to the traditional know-how?

Five years later, under the leadership of Gauvreau, the École technique de Montréal becomes the École du meuble. This institution will play an essential role in the emergence and recognition of Québec’s crafts.

Always with the aim of preserving this heritage, Gauvreau establishes the Musée de l’École du meuble in 1940. His objective: to assemble a teaching collection dedicated to crafts and comprised of objects from the French-Canadian tradition as well as from Europe and the United States, from the 17th century to the beginning of the 20th century.

He frequently corresponds with Marius Barbeau, founder of Canadian and Québec anthropology, who often sells him pieces he has collected himself, including textiles from Charlevoix.

When CEGEPS are created in 1967, the collection becomes the property of the Ministry of Education. The École du meuble (which had become, in 1958, the Institut des Arts appliqués) is now under the authority of the Cégep du Vieux-Montréal. It is divided into several technical schools: textiles, ceramic, cabinet making, etc.

During a period of purgatory (1967–1985), when part of the collection is used for Expo 67, the pieces are stored in poor conditions at the Hélène-de-Champlain and Jacques-Cartier Bridge pavilions. In 1985, the collection is sent to the Musée des arts décoratifs (now known as the Musée du Château Dufresne)for a 10-year contract. In 1987, Luc d’Iberville-Moreau reaches an agreement with Gérard Lavallée, and the collection is transported to the Musée d’art de Saint-Laurent.

Finally, in 2005, the Québec Ministry of Higher Education and Science agrees to donate the collection to the Musée des maîtres et artisans du Québec— now the MUMAQ.

Collection overview