Opening Hours

Article Published in Echo des Caps, #1057, June 2nd 2006

The Tools Of Communication In Saint-Pierre & Miquelon

It is in this month of June that the Heritage Museum opens its doors. This is the museum’s fourth season and the curator Roland Châtel’s objective is to renew his collections and to give them life. This is a brilliant way to keep the locals coming back to discover new exhibits, but also a great way to attract new visitors and to promote the museum’s latest acquisitions.

The World Of Communications During The 19th Century

A recent study was focused on the role of the Internet in our daily lives, however Roland Châtel has decided this year to open a new room in the museum dedicated to the tools of communication present in Saint-Pierre et Miquelon during the 19th century.

You will not find any televisions, plasma screens, DVD, home cinema, iPods of mp3s, but ancient and imposing radios, antique black and white televisions who were able to pick up Canadian signals, the first projection tools including two Pathé Baby projectors who once belonged to Mathurin Lehors and Sylvain Ropers, and were offered to the Museum by Monsignor François Maurer for the former, and Mme Jeannine Ropers for the latter.

Next to a number of cameras from various periods – very far indeed from the world of digital cameras – is a projection lantern and stereoscopic viewers from pharmacist Ernest Hutton. You can also find transmission tools for Morse code that were used locally by the Anglo-American Telegraph company and Western Union.

The CREMER projectors were once used by the local television studio and remind us that local production and transmission reached locals for the first time on April 20th, 1967.

As once written by Daniel Guillot in his « islands of Saint-Pierre et Miquelon during the 20th century »: we can say the lives of the islanders were changed forever. Overnight, the Saint-Pierrais started living with the outside world, and not on the sidelines; they were able to see images from around the world instead of imagining them.

Let’s not forget that it was M. Bernard Goulay, Delegate general from the ORTF – the Office of French Radio and Television who inaugurated the Saint-Pierre television station in 1967. During the first years, there was no broadcast on Mondays, so many families would pick that day for gatherings and card playing or to listening to radio broadcasts like « Les Maîtres du mystère »: the Masters of mystery.

Radio And Television: Windows On The World

Daniel Guillot wrote: Radio broadcasting began in Saint-Pierre in April of 1932. We can hardly imagine the level of isolation the islanders had been in before, without telephone, newspapers, with mail only from time to time (once if a month if they were lucky), they could only communicate with the rest of the world via telegram.

Indeed, radio played a central role in the life of local families as per this article written in the Parish paper « Le Foyer Paroissial », dated April 15th 1932: « Wednesday night, April 13th, at 8:30 PM, in more than 200 Saint-Pierre families, people were gathered around the loudspeakers of radios. The same would be for Miquelon, Île aux Marins, Canada, Newfoundland and elsewhere. The local radio station had announced a great lineup of music, punctuated by a chat with Monsignor Heitz, the local bishop.

After a number of musical pieces, and a song called « la légende des flots bleus » or « the legend of the blue waves », it was the turn of Monsignor Heitz to speak for twenty minutes. With very instructive chat, and humour, Monsignor discussed the following topic: is it true that Christians are not worth more than others?

Broadcast on the radio waves, those words were carried for over 400 nautical miles, and finally the salutation of our Alsatian bishop: « Blessed be Jesus Christ! »

Be reminded that every 15 days, that is every second and fourth Wednesday of each month, at 8h30 PM, another chat will be given by a member of our clergy on themes of morality and religion, or life in the countries where missionary work is done.

Given our isolation in Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, more than elsewhere, radio and then television became our windows upon the world, a source of ideas, but also a source of entertainment. If these now older forms of media are being pushed aside by this new century’s Internet, we must admit that for people of our generation, radio offered excellent quality programming and introduced us to the works of Léo Ferré and George Brassens. With television, it was classical and « boulevard » theater, investigative journalism with « Cinq colonnes à la une » … How times have changed.

At the Heritage Museum, you will feel the nostalgia for an era where the media was still able to claim the status of art.

Written by, Jean-Louis Mahé
Pictures by Jean-Luc Drake

Article Published in Écho des Caps, #1016, June 3rd 2005

A Third Season For The Heritage Museum. The Champagne Islands

Preserving our local heritage is Roland Châtel’s objective and has been so for over fifteen years.

Opened in July 2003, this private museum is now entering its third season. In a bid to attract new visitors while maintaining our regulars, the Museum’s curator has once again come up with new changes.

In fact, there is now a complete story dedicated to that era of wealth that was Prohibition. A logical choice as the Museum is currently located in the old Julien Morazé buildings. The Morazé where one of the families, along with the Chartier, Borotra, Landry, Dagort, Miller, Paturel, Girardin, Hardy and Ozon, who partook in the business that made our islands, “the islands of Champagne”.

But let’s not forget that this era was beneficial to our islands because of two men: President Millerrand of France who removed protectionist laws restricting the imports of foreign alcohol in Saint-Pierre, and the American Andrew Volstead, father of Prohibition.

This is the history that Roland Châtel wants to tell us, with much attention to detail, and a hundred new objects.

One piece stands on it’s own; this is a rare object, discovered at the Marcel Dagort wood storage facility: a brand new store sign for the Northern Trading and Company Limited, one of a number of export companies that was once located on the islands along with the Northern Export Company.

In the collection, a cart and a sled, bear true witness to the large number of alcohol cases that had to be transported to the storehouses, as high as the roof could permit. At the Heritage Museum, you will also see some of the original cases from that era, including Hardy Cognac once sold by Julien Morazé and Sons, the Ara Rhum and St Gilles sold by the Dagort Company, as well as fine liquors known as Benoît Serre.

A number of alcohol canisters and an impressive collection of whiskey, champagne, wine and fine liquor bottles, are also on display.

All these objects remind us how our islands had become a gigantic legal warehouse for alcohol. As well, we are reminded how a small import tax managed to keep the finances of the islands in very good health for years, nothing like it is today.

This exhibit, once again, does its magic. And any visit soon becomes a true history lesson. An entire chapter of our history is brought back to life, with much ability and esthetics. May the younger generation not hesitate to come and visit as the collections present the life of their ancestors with valuable objects that have built our collective identity.

Jean-Louis Mahé
Photographs by Jean-Luc Drake

Article Published in Écho des Caps, #974, June 18, 2004

The Heritage Museum of Saint-Pierre is much more than a museum, “it’s a living being”

“What a great example of preservation of our local heritage. This museum will no doubt become of the most crucial tools in the promotion of our culture, for the locals and for tourists.”

“What a great idea to keep all these items, they are witnesses to our past and you have done a great job in sharing that with us”

“What a wonderful initiative, it makes us realize how difficult life used to be. We can feel the passion of the curator and the spirits of those who lived here”

These are only some of the comments that were made during the Heritage Museum’s opening day. Lot of praise, but well deserved.

The Heritage Museum has already had over two thousand visitors in only three months. Our guestbook attests that many of our visitors have had the feeling of returning to their childhood while perusing the 4500 square feet and ten rooms of the old Morazé Warehouse.

The owner and curator, M Roland Châtel, never stopped collecting and preserving our history: three hundred new items now complete the impressive collection, witnesses of our way of life and the history of the islands. Roland Châtel now offers tranquil retirement for these objects. Like all collectors, the owner and curator does not want to change their original purpose. He only wants to save these items from oblivion. His main objective is to save these witnesses to our past, of a time now gone.

For instance, you will be able to discover how the Sisters of the order of Saint Joseph of Cluny were in fact incredible laborers: looms, embroidery looms, wool carders remind us how things were made by hand. Making hosts was also labor intensive and required great precision, a job reserved for the sister in charge of sacristine duties.

A dried codfish press, a dried fish scale from the Morue Française establishments and offered to the museum by M Abel Goineau are here side by side with an engine donated by M Emile Poirier that was once the electrical generator for Ile aux Marins and Pointe au Cheval. Over a hundred new items also celebrate the memory of Doctor François Dunan, who after obtaining the prestigious Corvisart Prize, became Saint-Pierre and Miquelon’s doctor, midwife and dentist.

It is with much patience, with method, that Ronland Châtel gives new life to objects, items and photographs. Each item is put in context, without removing it from its true identity.

“When passion feeds the poetry of live, what joy to let one be taken by what enriches our spirit” wrote one of the museum’s visitors.

This private museum, born from the passion of one man for the history of his island, reminds us that objects don’t die suddenly. At the Heritage Museum, they remind us of those who once used them. These objects from our memory many cause certain nostalgia, but they also make us take good measure of time and how our world has changed.

Jean-Louis Mahé
Photographs by Jean-Christophe L’Espagnol

Article Published at July 12th, 2003

Saint-Pierre Inherits a New Museum

How many times have I walked down rue Georges Lefèvre by what was, not too long ago, the home of Henri Morazé, wondering what history lived in this building and what secrets it still kept ? And here I am today, I have entered and discovered, the way we discover a book of treasures, fifteen years of passion and hard work by the new owner, Monsieur Roland Châtel. This is a very emotional moment.

Fifteen years dedicated to one objective, to offer to the local population a “Heritage” museum, and for our visitors, a superb gem. But we must now wait for the public’s reaction.

Here I am, in what was once a huge warehouse, back from the crazy days of Prohibition. It is a succession of rooms where brick and wood are intermarried. The smells also bring us back to the past. This is a huge renovation project, as the building itself is a museum. All the items from our past are here and presented in an optimal fashion. Over ten rooms where you can walk at your leisure, where you can say “finally”, a place where an artist can preserve, collect and save our memories. How can we not be moved by the austerity of the room, which recreates the life of the nuns of St Joseph of Cluny? The religious life of our island is one of the main themes of the museum, and Monsignor Maurer has left the mark of his approval and encouragement.

And then suddenly, room number nine, a few steps, and here we are back in the world of the fishery, reliving the life of Terre-Neuva fishermen and their dories, including the one used by Joseph Poirier fishing for caplan at Anse aux Soldats.

In room number ten, on the lower level, has another dory, a beautiful one, generously offered to the museum by Monsieur René Luberry. This is where our maritime identity was forged! I will come back often, so I can also relive the world of Henri Morazé, the man who made this place, our “gentleman bootlegger”.

Like Jean-Pierre Detcheverry in Miquelon, Marc Derible in Ile aux Marins, following the steps of Edmond Fontaine in Saint-Pierre, I can say that among private initiatives, Roland Châtel is a true master when it comes to making the walls, floors and items resonate with history.

Written by, Henri Lafitte

Article Published in Echo des Caps, #933, July 4th 2003

Opening very soon in Saint-Pierre: the Heritage Museum, the passion of one man for the History of the island

The French poet, Jean Tardieu once wrote “given a wall, what happens beyond it?” Inhabitants or visitors of Saint-Pierre, do not hesitate to push the doors of the old Morazé warehouse located at the General de Gaulle plaza. The owner, Roland Châtel is passionate about artifacts and old objects – he has collected them since childhood – and has spent over fifteen years changing this warehouse into a remarkable museum, the “Heritage Museum”. This museum will for instance remind you of the heritage left by the nuns of St Joseph of Cluny, who came here in 1826 as nurses. At the beginning of the 19th century, “children grew like the flowers of the mountains”, and the sisters had to convert of the hospital rooms into a classroom.

The heritage museum is organized in multiple levels, so the visitor can go through time and explore the history surrounding the world of these religious nuns: health, education and religion. As well, the museum also offers exhibits on the history of Prohibition and the fishery, two important aspects of our economic history. All items are authentic. For Roland Châtel, “this museum is a living space dedicated to informing, raising awareness and for the collecting and preservation of the islands’ memory”. He is the guardian of our memories indeed, and he will soon find the place he deserves within out town.

Jean-Louis Mahé
Photographs by Jean-Christophe L’Espagnol