Société des musées du Québec

What is a museum, anyway ?

What do all the member institutions of the Société des musées du Québec have in common? All are non-profit organizations devoted to educating the public and sharing knowledge about art, history or science. They can be divided into three major categories: museums as such, exhibition centres and interpretation sites.

Museums acquire, conserve, study and display collections. They help to safeguard and pass along our heritage, put it within everyone’s reach and celebrate it for local visitors and tourists from far away who are curious about this part of the country. Museums conduct research and outreach activities ranging from exhibitions to educational and cultural activities and publications. Botanical gardens, zoos and aquariums are also museums, because they have “living collections” that they make accessible to the public.

Exhibition centres focus primarily on producing temporary exhibitions, along with research and educational and cultural activities. Unlike actual museums, however, they generally have no collections or permanent exhibitions. Often there are exhibition centres at cultural centres, Maisons de la culture, libraries and teaching institutions. Most of them are dedicated to displaying and introducing the public to art.

Interpretation sites, as the name suggests, are devoted to interpreting a theme usually related to history, science, the environment, technology or lifestyles. These sites include science and nature interpretation centres, historic sites and houses and even, in some cases, churches and other places of worship that offer exhibitions and interpretation activities.