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Defunct business signs on display at Concordia University exhibition
Article mis en ligne le jeudi 7 octobre 2010
 
Photo Anja Karadeglija
Matt Soar, who is responsible for the Montreal Sign Project, poses next to the old Monkland Tavern sign.

A small slice of NDG’s history is now hanging on the walls of the Communication Studies and Journalism building at Concordia University’s Loyola Campus.

Several of the city’s old business signs are exhibited at the university as part of the Montreal Signs Project. The collection includes signage from NDG spots like the Monkland Tavern and the now-closed Monsieur Hotdog.

Matt Soar, associate professor of communication studies, spearheaded the effort. He says the signs are full of meaning for long-time residents.

“The signs are the remnants of moments that have gone, memories that have gone, heritage that has been lost,” he says. “But we know…that you show people signs and they have memories associated with them … they trigger memories, so they’re a window into the past just as much as a photograph might be.”

He mentions the history of the Monkland Tavern sign. “Now it’s a very nice restaurant, but the signage dates back to when it was originally a bar,” he notes. “I understand sort of informally that it was a typical Montreal men’s bar, that was probably very smoky, and guys would sit around and drink and watch hockey on the TV.”

Soar says that signs are rarely thought of as being important in terms of heritage.

“After plowing down old neighbourhoods and knocking down old buildings throughout the 50s, and the 60s, and the 70s, urban planners and architects have got clued into the fact that old buildings are valuable, in terms of history, but also in terms of the economy. Signs don’t share that same fate,” he says.

In putting the project together, he collaborated with research partner Nancy Marrelli, recently retired as director at the Concordia University Archives.

“Between us, and with a lot of cajoling and basically trying to find people who weren’t going to say no… we developed, promoted, put forward a plan to put signs on the walls of the building here,” he remembers.

While the exhibition had its official opening on Sept. 25, the project continues.

Soar explains: “We don’t really have a budget, we don’t really have much storage space, but when we can, if we can, we are prepared to go out and save signs that are in danger of being lost.”

[Anja Karadeglija]






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