Sunday, July 1, 2012

Quebec: Morrin Center

Wishing I could go to Quebec, somehow failed to translate into "what would I do if I went to Quebec?" A couple of weeks before we left I started searching websites, and asking friends for advice. After subtracting time for the drive, we were only going to be in Quebec City for two days.

I looked for something to interest each of us -- First Nation (Native American) site for Ashley, biking for Don, history for me. 

The Morrin Center quickly floated the top of the list of places I wanted to visit. We were lucky in two ways. One, the Morrin Center is located down the stairs from out hotel (yes, stairs to cross streets), and two the  Morrin Center started up tours on the our full-day in Quebec. A week earlier and we would not have been able to go on a tour.

Our tour guide, Ben, lead us through the Morrin Center's unique history. It started off as a military barracks (1712-1808) the the prison for the city of Quebec (1813-1868). They held the worst criminals of the day -- people who stole tea (which came from China), a horse thief, an indentured servant who ran away from his master, as well as the lesser criminals. They adhered to the most modern prison reforms of the day -- including separating inmates based on the severity of their crimes and prisoners bathed on a regular basis. Some of the criminals were hung out front off of a balcony that no longer exists. It was a pretty scary place to be sentenced.  Unfortunately as the city grew, they outgrew their space.

A few years later (1862-1902), it was converted into the city's first English-language college. In 1885 they started admitting women to the program. The rooms that exist are stunning. In the far back corner of the science lab is a dark room that was donated by Mr. Eastman (of Eastman Kodak). 
 Today it is the only English-speaking library in Quebec City. Rather than waiting at our hotel room for our tour in English, Don and Ashley sat in the children's section of the library and read books.

This is the first collection I have ever seen that uses the Cutter System. They are quite proud of the fact that their entire fiction collected is sorted by author, and not by genre. I'd be interested to see how this kind of system could work on a much larger scale. I'm always curious as to how places organize their collections. 

The tour was fascinating. I am glad it worked out so we could see the place, and have a tour in English. Don and Ashley were happy for a little bit of quiet time to sit and read. A win for everyone.

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