Ivory, faience, brocade, velvet, silver, paper, parchment and other materials, hand crafted by masters and artisans...Materials that are testimony to our past. The Stewart Museum has meticulously built its collection on a time line where political events, scientific experiments and cultural life span a period of five centuries...
The objects, books and archival documents in the Stewart Museum collection recount the discoveries, travels and battles of the early explorers. The planispheres, star charts and maps of North and South America and the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans amply illustrate the expanding geographic knowledge gained by Europeans as they made their way across continents, that until then, had remained terra incognita. Added to these artefacts is a major collection of globes and navigation instruments: mariner’s compass, traverse board, nocturnal, astrolabe, sundial, and maritime hourglass from the 18th century.
Other objects portray the military exploits, revolutions and celebrations of past centuries. A fluted suit of armour made in Nuremberg by Wilhelm de Worms between 1510 and 1530, French flintlock muskets, horse pistols, and Iroquois tomahawks all underscore the vast savoir-faire of people of the day…and their swiftness to draw arms. Also included in the collection are numerous objects gathered from the Montreal militia, whose members fought in the two world wars of the 20th century, as well as weapons collected over the years by CIL (Canadian Industries Limited), Molson Brewery and the City of Montreal.
The Stewart Museum has put together a remarkable collection of objects that recount the advancement of science through the years. The collection includes terrestrial globes, land surveying instruments, sundials, mathematical devices, and medical apparatuses. The most spectacular of these objects are demonstration instruments used by Abbé Nollet and his student Sigaud de Lafond, both highly popular public speakers in the 18th century. Richly decorated, lacquered, and featuring golden floral motifs, the instruments were used by these scientists during their demonstrations on subjects that ranged from optics, mechanics and magnetism to astronomy and other disciplines that constituted physics during the era. Many of these devices became the inspiration for toys that appeared in the 19th and 20th centuries. Even today they can be used to explain such essential concepts as the vacuum and can help in our understanding of the mechanisms that drive such contemporary inventions as the camera and telephone.
To depict European and North American societies, the Stewart Museum has collected a wide variety of articles that reflect everyday life in the past. Represented are virtually all aspects of life in the period between the 16th century and the early 19th century. Most of the artefacts belonged to the middle and upper classes; a birth certificate, rattle, wedding plate, jerkin, sedan chair, pochette violin, jeu de Cavagnole, cartridge box, pomander, razor set, and vanity case all pay homage in their own way to the day-to-day lives of our ancestors.