The modern glass building is impressive, and the audiovisual show is a breezy romp through Montréal's history from the Ice Age to the present. The museum presents new local and international temporary exhibitions each year, but the real reason to visit the city's most ambitious archaeological museum is to take the elevator ride down to the 17th century.
It's dark down there, and just a little creepy thanks to the 350-year-old tombstones teetering in the gloom, but it's worth the trip. This is a serious archaeological dig that takes you to the very foundations of the city. You begin on the banks of the long-vanished Rivière St-Pierre, where the first settlers built their homes and traded with the First Nations inhabitants. From there you climb up toward the present, past the stone foundations of an 18th-century tavern and a 19th-century insurance building. Along the way, filmed figures representing past inhabitants appear on ghostly screens to chat to you about their life and
times. A more lighthearted exhibit explores life and love in multicultural Montréal. For a spectacular view of the Old Port, the St. Lawrence River, and the Islands, ride the elevator to the top of the tower, or stop for lunch in the museum's glass-fronted café. In summer there are re-creations of period fairs and festivals on the grounds near the museum.
By 2017, in time for Montréal's 375th anniversary, a major expansion of the museum, including new exhibits, will have been completed.