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History of the Insectarium

The Montréal Insectarium.
Photo: Jardin botanique de Montréal (Michel Tremblay)
Montréal Insectarium.

The Montréal Insectarium opened in 1990. Twenty years later, more than 400,000 visitors have explored the fascinating world of insects, magnificently showcased by the Montréal Insectarium team. The Insectarium, North America’s first museum entirely dedicated to entomology (the science of insects), educates the public about the tremendous diversity of insects and the essential role they play in the balance of nature.

Here is its history...


A fruitful meeting

There was once a man who roamed the world in search of fascinating and magnificent little animals: Insects. Year after year, he patiently sought out, captured, sorted and identified thousands of specimens. He had only one regret, and that was that this magnificent collection was stored away out of sight ... In his basement! For Georges Brossard, a former notary and now an insect-hunter, had a dream: To introduce the general public, and young people in particular, to the mysterious world of insects. In 1985, he invited Pierre Bourque, director of the Jardin botanique de Montréal at the time, to see his amazing collection. Bourque was astounded by the beauty of these tens of thousands of butterflies, moths, beetles, flies, other insects and arthropods from some 100 countries. Their meeting marked not only the birth of a great friendship between these two nature enthusiasts, but even more importantly, the first step in bringing a dream to life – the dream of creating an Insectarium in Montréal.


Tenacious (and generous) enthusiasts

For this dream to become a reality, Georges Brossard, his wife, Suzanne Schiller, and Pierre Bourque all knew that they had to convince the public and the different levels of government, including city authorities. They organized fascinating exhibitions at the Jardin botanique, accompanied by lectures, which generated great public enthusiasm. In fact, a public fund-raising campaign in 1987 pulled in an impressive $600,000. That same year, Georges Brossard donated his insect collection to the city. During a study mission to Japan, representatives of the different levels of government, including Tourisme Québec, were enthralled by the Tama and Hiroshima insectariums and convinced that Montréal should have a similar institution. Georges Brossard had reached his goal!


The dream emerges

The site selected, within the Jardin botanique itself, allowed the Insectarium to grow and evolve at its own pace, while taking advantage of the natural complementarity of the two institutions. Architects, scientists, ecologists, educators and museologists all pitched in. Other generous donors appeared, in particular Brother Firmin Laliberté, who offered the new museum a huge scientific collection of 100,000 specimens. Finally, on February 7, 1990, the Montréal Insectarium opened, with Mayor Jean Doré attending the ceremonies. During the initial open house period, 20,000 to 30,000 visitors braved the cold to come and see their Insectarium.


The dream takes wing

There was no shortage of challenges – could insects be made popular? However, the Montréal Insectarium de Montréal quickly made a name for itself with its rich collection, as well as exhibitions and large events that put it in the spotlight. Annual events such as Insect Tastings (1993-2005) and Butterflies Go Free, the Insectia television series and the An Official Insect for Québec campaign, were a few noteworthy successes. During this period, the Insectarium also got an outdoor aviary, enhanced its collections and created an “entomo-cultural” tour, The Travel Diaries of Georges Brossard.


History continues!

In 2000, the Montréal Insectarium turned 10, with much to celebrate! Its success had persisted, with 400,000 visitors each year. The Insectarium offered them innovative museology as well as a number of educational materials.

The Insectarium’s expertise in this area and scientifically gained recognition and it participated in a number of international research projects. In constant evolution since its opening, the Montréal Insectarium sought to create a new and unique facility: An insect ecosystem. Tropical butterflies, aquatic insects, ants, cave beetles … Many animals for the Insectarium to introduce to as many people as possible, in keeping with its popular vocation.


20th anniversary of the Insectarium

Did you know that 2010 was the Montréal Insectarium’s 20th anniversary?

On February 7, 1990, the museum opened to a curious public that rushed in to see thousands of insect specimens all under the same roof. The visitors, especially children, fell in love with the Insectarium right away.


A new permanent exhibition, We Are the Insects, was presented at the Insectarium, showcasing more than 3,000 naturalized specimens and 100 living specimens. This exhibition shows us why insects are superheroes, with their incredible adaptations to extremely varied environments. Science facilitators guide the public through the exhibition with finesse, humour and theatricality, introducing them to these useful creatures and promoting a positive attitude towards them.

The love story between the Insectarium and its visitors, which has never been lost, continues today...

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