Artifacts uncovered in Turcot dig offer a look into beginnings of Saint-Henri
Objects from artisanal tannery lost to history on display until Nov. 11
Montrealers have the opportunity to see a piece of the city's pre-industrial history for the next month at the Saint-Henri Public Library.
A free exhibition showcasing 82 artifacts recovered from the site of the Turcot Interchange is running from Oct. 10 to Nov. 11, showcasing a leather tannery uncovered during construction at the site.
Featuring objects dating back to the early 18th century, the exhibition is focused on the archeological digs which took place in 2015 and 2016, the craft of pre-industrial leather tanning and the day-to-day life of the tanners, who also lived with their families on the site.
"We have items that you won't see anywhere else in Quebec," said Quebec Transport Ministry archeologist Frank Rochefort.
"These are objects that give us the history behind Saint-Henri."
He said many of the artifacts were well-preserved, since they were buried in a layer of clay and submerged under water.
The site, known as the Tannery Village, was between Montreal and Lachine, and became what is now the neighbourhood of Saint-Henri. After the digs were completed, the site was demolished.
The location was chosen due to its proximity to Glen Creek, which fed into the St. Pierre River, as a significant amount of water was needed to treat the skins to produce leather.
Rochefort says the artifacts provide significant new details about how the tanners lived and worked. They recovered wooden boards used to place the skins in rotating barrels — a tool never before seen intact, he said.
The exhibition offers an "absolutely fascinating" look at this pre-industrial craftsmanship and lifestyle, said curator Nathalie Le Coz.
Through the artifacts, visitors are able to see how the craft evolved and how each craftsman had their own approach to leather tanning.
By the mid-19th century, industrial leather tanning factories began to replace artisanal tanneries. However, the exhibit offers a look into a long-gone, close-knit community — a way of life Le Coz says we could learn from as development in the Southwest borough changes the face of the neighbourhood.
Saint-Henri-des-Tanneries: Un village sous la ville runs from Oct. 10 to Nov. 11 at the Saint-Henri Public Library. Admission is free.
With files from Verity Stevenson