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The Ursulines’ Collection

Over 375 years of collecting
The Ursulines’ collections consist of approximately 30,000 pieces produced or acquired by the nuns in the course of their duties since 1639, the year they arrived in New France. They reflect all aspects of the Ursuline identity, namely the characteristics of a women’s religious community focused on teaching.

Exceptional institutional collections
The Ursulines’ rich collections contain objects that evoke the community’s daily life and work in education, as well as a remarkable collection of sacred and profane art—embroidery, sculptures, paintings, silverwork, works on paper and so forth. The age and rarity of the pieces in these collections make for an inexhaustible source of knowledge on the community’s history.

In situ collections
The Ursulines’ collections also boast the particularity of being conserved in situ, that is in the places where they were produced or used as well as where they served to beautify the monastery in Quebec City—in the chapel, sacristy, refectory, museum, archives, community rooms, corridors, attics and so forth. It is noteworthy that, despite fires and wars, the collections have never sustained significant damage or loss. They continue to shed light on centuries past and can be studied from one period to the next, in the order that the nuns accumulated them.

The collections encompass:

  1. the life of Marie of the Incarnation, designated a historical figure by virtue of Quebec’s Cultural Heritage Act.
  2. the evolution of the bonds between the Ursulines and First Nations members since the nuns’ arrival in New France.
  3. the lifestyle of the Quebecois Ursulines from 1639 to the present.
  4. the spiritual heritage and religious practices of the Ursulines of Quebec.
  5. the relationships maintained by the Ursulines with political and military authorities, civic and religious organizations, and merchants, as well as artists and artisans from here and afar.
  6. the Ursulines’ perpetuation of the European tradition of monastic workshops (gilding, embroidery, painting, flower making and so forth).
  7. the effects that wars, epidemics, fires and social changes had on the Ursulines’ lives.
  8. the access to sacred art and the development of artistic practices under the French and English regimes.
  9. the excellent education for girls offered by the Ursulines of Quebec since 1639, an education on par with the best girls’ schools in Europe and the United States.
  10. the Ursulines’ key contribution to the development and implementation of Quebec’s public school system.
  11. the establishment of the community in different regions across Quebec and Canada.
  12. the community’s missionary work abroad.
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