On 28 April 1967, the gates to Expo 1967 Montreal opened to the public, marking the start of a new and modern era for the city. The Expo, which celebrated 100 years of Canadian Confederation and 325 years since Montreal’s founding, was a major accomplishment for the city and for Canada.
During the six months that the Expo was open, 50 million people passed through the turnstyles, eager to discover the latest innovations and explore different interpretations of the theme “Man and His World” (in French: Terre des hommes).
Organising the Expo was a mammoth project for Montreal, being unprecedented in its size and scale and bringing the eyes of the world upon Quebec’s largest city. Rather than redeveloping existing terrain, the city created the Expo site in the middle of the St. Laurence river by enlarging an existing island and creating an entirely new one.
Expo 1967 was a transformative event, modernising Montreal’s image and offering an alternative approach for the millions of North American anglophone visitors. The Expo left its mark in many physical ways too, with Parc Jean Drapeau, the Biosphere and Moshe Safdie’s Habitat 67 housing complex all major contributions to Montreal’s urban landscape.
Celebrating a unique cultural experience
Commemorating 50 years of Expo 1967 is a key part of the Montreal’s cultural calendar for 2017, celebrating 375 years since the city’s founding. From now until 29 October – the 50th anniversary of the closing date of Expo 1967 – a range of events and cultural activities are being organised to “relive the magic” of the Expo and retrace key moments.
Internationally renowned for its cultural scene since the Expo, Montreal’s museums are actively participating in the Expo commemorations. Between April and October, the Stewart Museum on Ile Ste-Hélène proposes “Expo 67 – A World of Dreams”, offering visitors a thematic and historic journey into the story behind the Expo.
Recounting the cultural particularities of the time, the McCord Museum presents “Fashioning Expo 67”, a look back at the dazzling outfits worn, designed or presented at Expo 1967. The 60s theme and how it was embraced by Quebec youth at the time of the Expo is explored at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts at the “You say you want a revolution” exhibition from London’s V&A Museum, on display between 17 June and 19 October.
Using its exclusive archival footage from the period, Radio Canada is also taking part in the 50th anniversary celebrations by sharing video clips of the Expo, its visitors and its pavilions, on its Facebook page.
Sustaining the legacy
Providing an exclusive look at the genesis of the Expo project through to the event and its legacy, a dedicated platform – Expo-67.ca – has been created by Productions de la ruelle to bring light on the Expo, half a century later. The crowning achievement of this initiative is “Expo 67 Mission Impossible”, a feature-length documentary tracing the story of the Expo and those who fought to make it a success. Based on archives and interviews, the platform will also publish a series of videos, images and articles between now and October.
The Expo’s physical impact in Montreal is being brought to light through a range of initiatives in Parc Jean Drapeau, which occupies the former site of the Expo. As well as the “Terres d’expériences” augmented reality experience, a multimedia exhibition in the Biosphere – the iconic former pavilion of the United States – allows visitors to discover the Expo’s environmental legacy.
As the first World Expo to introduce the concept of “Expo passports”, allowing visitors to receive a stamp for each pavilion they visit, Montreal 375 has launched a special, 50 year edition of the Expo 1967 passport. Modernised for the 21st century, the passport can be used to collect digital stamps and give the holder access to exclusive content as they visit different events and venues.
For more information on the 50th anniversary celebrations, visit the Montreal 375 website: 375mtl.com
The Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) is the intergovernmental organisation in charge of overseeing and regulating World Expos, Specialised Expos, Horticultural Expos and the Triennale di Milano.