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Leisure Activities

Enjoying their free time!

For the Ursulines, educating a child went way beyond classroom teaching. They sought a more well-rounded approach that encompassed heart, body and mind. The young people entrusted to their care thus developed their intellectual potentials, social skills and spiritual lives in addition to their physical abilities.

The games and sports activities they participated in during their free time as well as the access they had to cultural activities like theater, film, photography and singing went a long way toward fulfilling these objectives. All these things helped foster a sense of family within the walls of their institutions.

Conical polyorama panoptique

Tinplate, brass, enamel and glass
Pierre Henri Amand Lefort, Paris
After 1849
18 x 11 x 11 cm

Well before the invention of movies and the Internet, the Ursulines loved to travel through images, as we can see by the numerous optical devices in the collections. This conical polyorama panoptique, patented in 1849 by Pierre Henri Amand Lefort, is one example. An image is inserted into the device and viewed through a glass lens, which enlarges the image.

The images are prints or lithographs, colored with ink and printed recto verso. The polyorama panoptique has two openings to let light in. The image looks different depending on whether the light enters from the top or the back of the device. The Ursulines owned numerous images to use in the polyorama panoptique. Most of them depict sites in Paris or other European cities.

Cylinder music box

Wood, metal, paper, ink and varnish
Charles Paillard & Cie, Switzerland
Circa 1880
12 x 38 x 19 cm

Manufactured in Switzerland and sold by Pruneau et Kirouac (48 Fabrique Street, Quebec City), this music box dates from the end of the 19th century. The music box plays the melodies listed inside the lid, including “Ma Lady Moon” and “Make a Fuss over Me,” among others.


Wood, steel, brass and paint
Rochester Optical Co., United States
Circa 1885–1894
19.26 x 37 cm

The New Model camera, manufactured by the New York company Rochester Optical Co. cost between ten and fifteen dollars. Light, compact and portable, it was quite popular with amateur photographers at the time.

The Ursulines became interested in photography early on. Having acquired the knowledge and necessary equipment, Mother Saint-Louis (Paméla Roy) became the Ursulines’ first “cloistered photographer” in 1885.

Bowling pins

Wood, paper, ink and paint
Industrial manufacture
May 5, 1885
21 x 4 cm

These bowling pins depicting soldiers are carved from wood and covered with paint and paper. The chromolithographic process used on the paper gives the soldiers a strikingly lifelike appearance. 

In the 19th century the Ursulines’ students enjoyed a version of bowling that was quite different from the one we know today. They played outdoors with a variable number of pins and a small wooden ball. To knock the pins down, they could either roll or throw the ball.

Glass slide

Glass and ink
Ernst Plank & Co., Germany
Late 19th century
28 x 9 cm

Produced by German toymaker Ernst Plank, this slide diffuses images when used with a magic lantern, a precursor to the slide projector. When the slide is placed in front of the lantern’s lens, it creates an animation.

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