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About the Musée maritime du Québec

History of the Museum: Past to Present

The Musée maritime du Québec was officially founded in 1968. The Association des marins de la vallée du Saint-Laurent spearheaded this major cultural initiative, with the following objectives in mind:

  • To disseminate the rich maritime heritage of Quebec;
  • To promote navigation professions, including seamanship;
  • To highlight Quebeckers’ strong connection to the St. Lawrence River.

Over 50 years later, the Museum now proudly ranks among the most important museums in America. Here are the milestones that marked the Museum’s history.


1920 : Foundation of the Association des marins de L’Islet

1965 : Foundation of the Association des marins de la Côte-du-Sud

1968 : Foundation of the Musée maritime de la Côte-du-Sud

1969-70 : The Ministère des Affaires culturelles du Québec entrusts the Museum with its provincial maritime collection.

1973 : Relocation of the Bernier monument to the Museum’s premises – It was first erected near the L’Islet-sur-Mer parish hall, in June 1962.

1974 : The Musée maritime de la Côte-du-Sud is officially dedicated to the memory of Captain Joseph-Elzéar Bernier and its name is changed to Musée maritime Bernier.

1975 :The Museum is accredited a private museum by the Ministère des Affaires culturelles du Québec.

1976 : The Museum acquires the giant scale model of the Arctic vessel from Lucien Leclerc, a model maker in Saint-Jean-Port-Joli.

1979 : 

  • Thanks to the generosity of Groupe CSL Ltée, the Museum acquires the J.E. Bernier II. This sailing ship travelled around North America, from Montréal to the Arctic, through the Northwest Passage and the Panama Canal. 
  • The Museum becomes the repository of the maritime heritage collection of the Musée du Québec, now called the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec.

1980 : Through the Crown Assets Distribution Centre and the National Museums of Canada, the Canadian Coast Guard entrusts the Museum with the Ernest Lapointe icebreaker.

1981-82 : Complete refurbishment of the Museum to meet museum standards.

1983 : Acquisition of the Bras d’Or hydrofoil by the Museum.

1985 : Creation of the Fondation du Musée maritime Bernier.

1990-92 : Major restoration work on the Ernest Lapointe icebreaker.

1994 : Creation of the marine interpretation park and opening to the public of the Bras d’Or hydrofoil.

1996-97 : With the addition of the Boathouse (interpretation, exhibition and traditional watercraft construction hall), the Museum offers premises similar to major maritime museums in the world.

1998 : The Musée maritime Bernier changes names to Musée maritime du Québec.

2008 : 40th anniversary of the Musée maritime du Québec and participation in the 400th anniversary of Québec City with the Ocean Blue, Ivory White exhibition at Bassin Brown

2009 : 

  • The Museum highlights the 100th anniversary of Canada’s laying claim to the whole Arctic Archipelago by Captain Joseph-Elzéar Bernier and his crew. 
  • The same year marked the beginning of renovations in the former convent to house attractions featuring the Joseph-Elzéar Bernier exhibition and in the adjacent former National Bank building. The new entrance hall and lobby of the museum was also built.

2010 : Inauguration of the newly renovated museum.

2013 : Inauguration of the new Sea Roots permanent exhibition

2014 : The Museum discloses the results from a chemical analysis of the contents of bottles found in the Empress of Ireland shipwreck. Those bottles are part of the Museum’s collection.

2015 : The Museum participates in the “Acquisition de connaissances sur les épaves du Saint-Laurent” project in partnership with the Centre interdisciplinaire de développement en cartographie des océans (CIDCO – interdisciplinary centre for the development of ocean mapping), the Cimetière du Saint-Laurent and the St. Lawrence Global Observatory (SLGO) to build knowledge on St. Lawrence shipwrecks.

2016 : 

  • Under the terms of the Cultural Heritage Act, the Ministère de la Culture et des Communications of Québec designates Captain Joseph-Elzéar Bernier a historical figure.
  • The Museum joins the Franklin Network Outreach Project comprised of ten Canadian museums.

2017 : The Institut de recherche en histoire maritime et archéologie subaquatique (IRHMAS – maritime history and underwater archeology research institute) partners with the Museum.

2018 : The Museum celebrates the 50th anniversary of its foundation. A new permanent exhibition is inaugurated in the Boathouse: The Era of Traditional Small Craft

2019 : The Museum is recognized a certified museum institution by the Ministère de la Culture et des Communications of Québec.

2020 : 

  • The Museum entrusts the Répertoire du patrimoine culturel du Québec with an inventory of 400 digitized and documented objects.
  • Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Museum closes its doors to the public on March 14, at 4 p.m., following a decree declaring a state of health emergency by the Government of Québec. The Museum reopens June 20 after being closed for several months, but it closes its doors again to the public on October 10, 2020.

2021 : Creation of an audio library of 120 sounds from maritime heritage. Creation of an audio library of 120 sounds from maritime heritage.  

2022 : Inauguration of the Riverfront Park – New Generation