The Museum is constantly moving forward and adapting to the public’s changing needs. Over the years, the Museum has positioned itself among the most important maritime museums in America. Following are the pivotal points of this evolution:
1920: Foundation of the Association des marins de L’Islet
1965: Foundation of the Association des marins de la Côte-du-Sud1968: Foundation of the Musée maritime de la Côte-du-Sud
1969-70: The Ministère des Affaires culturelles du Québec places its national maritime collection with the Musée maritime de la Côte-du-Sud.
1974: The Museum is officially dedicated to the memory of Captain Joseph-Elzéar Bernier and is now known as the Musée maritime Bernier
1975: The Museum is accredited a private museum by the Ministère des Affaires culturelles du Québec.
1979: Thanks to the generosity of Groupe CSL Ltée, the Museum becomes the owner of the sailing ship J.-E. Bernier. This ship travelled around North America from Montréal to the Arctic through the Northwest Passage and the Panama Canal.1980: Through the Crown Assets Distribution Centre and the National Museums of Canada, the Canadian Coast Guard presents the Museum with the icebreaker Ernest Lapointe.1981-82: The Museum is completely refurbished to meet museum standards.
1983: The Museum acquires the hydrofoil Bras d’Or 400
1985: Creation of the Fondation du Musée maritime Bernier (foundation).
1990-92: Major restoration work on the icebreaker Ernest Lapointe.
1994: Creation of a marine interpretation park and opening to the public of the Bras d’Or 400.
1996-97: With the addition of the Boathouse (interpretation and exhibit areas and the construction of traditional watercraft), the Museum establishes a site comparable to the great maritime museums in the world.
1998: Change of name to the Musée maritime du Québec
2008: The Musée maritime du Québec celebrates its 40th anniversary! Participation in the 400th anniversary of Québec with the exhibition Bleu de mer, blanc d’ivoire at the Bassin Brown.
2009: The Museum highlights the 100th anniversary of the taking of possession for the Dominion of Canada of the entire Arctic Archipelago by Captain Joseph-Elzéar Bernier and his crew. This same year marked the beginning of renovation work at the Joseph-Elzéar Bernier Pavilion, the former National Bank and the construction of the reception pavilion.
2010: Inauguration of the renovated Museum.
2013: Inauguration of the new permanent exhibition, Sea Roots.
2014: On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Empress of Ireland, the Museum discloses the results of the chemical analysis of the contents of bottles found in the shipwreck. These bottles are part of the Museum’s collection. Furthermore, for a number of years, the Museum’s collection contained bones from victims of the Empress of Ireland. The bones were brought to the surface during diving expeditions carried out in 1964 and 1965. These human remains are buried at the cemetery in Rimouski at the base of a monument built to commemorate the victims of this famous shipwreck.
2015: The Museum participates in the “Knowledge Acquisition Wrecks St. Lawrence” project in partnership with the Centre Interdisciplinaire de Développementen Cartographie des Océans (CIDCO – interdisciplinary centre for the development of ocean mapping), the Cimetière du Saint-Laurent and the St. Lawrence Global Observatory (SLGO). The purpose of the project is to document wrecks lying at the bottom of the St. Lawrence River using acoustic techniques mapping to create precise seabed maps.
2016: In 2016, under the terms of the Cultural Heritage Act, the Government of Quebec designates Captain Joseph-Elzéar Bernier a historical figure.
2017: The Institut de recherche en histoire maritime et archéologie subaquatique (IRHMAS – maritime history and underwater archeology research institute) sets up its headquarters at the Museum.
2018: The Museum celebrates the 50th anniversary of its foundation. More than 25 cultural events are presented. A new permanent exhibition is inaugurated in the Boathouse and a podcast « Ralentis, la marée monte ! »launched on the Route des Navigateurs between L’Islet and Saint-Roch-des-Aulnaies.