PODCAST | From Downton Abbey to the Reford Gardens

Butlers, chambermaids, footmen: the large teams of domestic staff who served the aristocracy of Britain’s Edwardian age are widely known. Perhaps less well known, however, is the fact that this lifestyle straight out of “Downton Abbey” existed in Quebec as well, among certain wealthy families of English Montreal early in the twentieth century. Listen to this immersive experience, produced by the Reford Gardens, and find yourself in the Estevan Lodge during a busy summer!

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Elsie Reford et la mode

From June 18 to October 1, 2023, the exhibition In vogue. Elsie Reford et la mode explores the influence of fashion illustrations on the garden designer’s relationship with fashion. Through the presentation of accessories and garments from her wardrobe, mostly dating from between 1892 and 1950, and a few reconstructions, this event underlines the extent to which Elsie slipped into the model these drawings disseminated when she was a child and teenager.

But this conformity is only apparent. Aware of the rules she has been taught, she actually plays with them, but without breaking them. She pushes them, but knows where the line is. She avoids being seen as an outsider.

This exhibition confronts Elsie’s wardrobe and way of being with the models put forward by magazines. It presents a world of codes that she mastered to perfection, hence the possibility of respecting them… or not.

From the Shore

by Stéphanie Béliveau

Excerpt from the emails exchanged between Stéphanie Béliveau and Sophie Jodoin, April 26 and August 2, 2022

Dear Stéphanie,

[…] perhaps in your work about the shoreline there is a vital anchoring. Something that, as you wrote to me, provides the impetus to work at rebuilding the foundations of both your home and your existence. It’s a powerful image, like the photos you sent me of the work you have underway. That work is not circumscribed, it has the capacity to (re)create itself endlessly, to (re)shape according to the tides of your existence, taking the form needed to live and survive. You have made the river your refuge. It has given itself to you, through the clay and debris which are your foundations. You have even integrated the essence of their erosion. In her journal Marie Uguay speaks of “an archaeological present.” You map the boundaries of that present, inviting us to walk that embodied landscape made of clay and salt water.

 All my love,


Stéphanie Béliveau is a visual artist born in Quebec City. She lives and works in Montreal and the Charlevoix region. Her work has been shown in numerous solo and group exhibitions in Canada and abroad. In 1997, she won the Prix Pierre-Ayot. In 2008, a mid-career retrospective exhibition, De l’intimité au réel, was presented at the Musée d’art contemporain de Baie-Saint-Paul, and that same year, she created a public artwork for McGill University, Des soleils et des cellules. A painter, photographer, sculptor and printmaker, Stéphanie Béliveau is also developing a multidisciplinary practice in collaboration with the Bureau de l’APA. Her works are part of numerous public and corporate collections.

Stéphanie Béliveau

Work in progress, 2023

Clay from the Micmac terrace

Camera Obscura

A camera obscura (precursor of the modern photographic camera) is presented here as a rectangular box reproducing the unusual Kodak Panarom No. 4. The Kodak Panarom No. 4 was the first Kodak panoramic camera and was manufactured by the camera giant between 1900 and 1926. From 1910 to 1940, Elsie Reford’s husband Robert W. Reford spent hour upon hour armed with his Kodak capturing images of the countryside surrounding the family’s estate in Grand-Métis. His photographs are an impressive record of the panoramas of La Mitis during this period. Throughout summer 2021, this installation will capture the ephemeral nature of La Mitis’ beautiful surroundings. The oversized device provides visitors with an immersive experience as they find themselves standing in the very scene they are viewing while also discovering how cameras work. This new travelling exhibit will be available in several different locations across our region. Come and make the most of this unique opportunity!

A Reford Gardens production with the financial support of the MRC de La Mitis.

Horizon fleuve

Horizon fleuve is an artistic project that brings together, around the words of author Paul Chanel Malenfant, texts by five local authors, photographs from ISMER research projects and photographs by Jean-Christophe Lemay. Camille Bernier, Camille Deslauriers, Tina Laphengphrateng, Stéphanie Pelletier and Marie-Hélène Voyer have written in echo to the river, while four photographs and research illustrations have been selected by curator Annie Landreville, to raise public awareness of the research being carried out in this powerful yet fragile waterway.

Project partners

Canada Council for the Arts, Conseil des arts et des lettres du Quebec, Culture Bas-Saint-Laurent, La MRC de La Mitis, Ville de Mont-Joli, Pascal Bérubé, MNA for Matane-Mitis-Matapédia, Salon du livre de Rimouski, ISMER and Université du Quebec à Rimouski, l’Hibou-coup, Jardins de Métis and Bibliothèque Olivar-Asselin de Sainte-Flavie.


A selection of photographs from the exhibition Alexander Henderson – Art and Nature organized by the McCord Stewart Museum.

Destined by his family for the profession of accountant, Alexander Henderson (Edinburgh, 1831–Montreal, 1913), who emigrated from Scotland to settle in Canada in 1855, discovered his passion for photography shortly after arriving in Montreal. Captivated by the splendour of the country’s natural scenery, he would become one of its leading landscape photographers, renowned during his lifetime at home and abroad. Despite a prolific career lasting until the 1890s, however, by the time of his death Henderson’s work had fallen into oblivion, and his obituary made not a single mention of his practice as a photographer.

Though he was operating in the same milieu as the photographers Notman, of Montreal, and Livernois, of Quebec City, the romanticism and aesthetic power of Henderson’s work set him apart. His oeuvre was also the product of a colonial vision: the privileged position he enjoyed and the cultural biases he nurtured as a British incomer to Canadian society of the time would shape his observation of both places and people. His style bore the stamp of the Picturesque, an aesthetic category of British landscape art, and it was in the photographic circles of London and Edinburgh that he sought recognition.

From July 1 to August 19, 2023, presented in the Aire Desjardins of the Great Hall, Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Last Light

by Christine Fitzgerald

When [blue] sinks almost to black, it echoes a grief that is hardly human



Last Light is a haunting new series resulting from artist Christine Fitzgerald’s ongoing visual inquiry along the majestic St. Lawrence River as she engages with 19th discourses of natural history specimen collecting and in-progress environmental stewardship to protect vulnerable coastal places and species. Her work is centered on the exploration of our relationship with this extraordinary ecosystem with underlying themes of time, precarity, and loss, and the role that photography plays in shaping human experience with these universal aspects of life.

Fitzgerald’s images are formed from her meticulous resuscitation and mastery of obsolete photographic techniques, creating new hybrid modes of seeing by entwining wet plate collodion camerawork and specialized printing techniques such as pigmented impressions on platinotypes. Fitzgerald is interested in creating a tension in her out-of-time images – something that is not quite normal, somewhere between reality and fiction – images that makes you stop and think. Inspired by the spirit of innovation of early pioneers of photography, Fitzgerald adapts and reimagines obsolete photographic methods, often combining multiple techniques to create her unique aesthetic and push her medium’s expressive potential.

Many of the images of Last Light are cloaked in blue, referencing the diminishing capacity for completely dark night sky in the face of human industry and climate change. Fitzgerald’s blue twilight is an elegy to our present moment – caught between the “deep” time of life on Earth, and the advancing effects of the Anthropocene age that we are now experiencing. As the pictorialist Edward Steichen remarked in 1899, twilight is when things melt into each, when we become conscious of the movement of time.

Last Light connects the revival of obsolete technologies of seeing with the urgent imperative to witness the precarity of the natural world in our present time.




Elsie Through the Eyes of…

This exhibit takes visitors through the life and times of Elsie Reford.

Best known for her gardens, Elise also had many other interests ranging from politics, to women’s health art, and international affairs. Her involvement in politics and public debates led her to cross paths with many of the era’s leading figures. For the first time, new facets of this remarkable woman will be revealed through a collection of pictures, objects and stories.

This exhibit is presented on the 2nd floor of the historic Estevan Lodge

The Museum of Tools

The Museum of Tools holds an impressive collection of garden tools acquired by the Reford Gardens in 2013.

Just like gardening techniques, gardening tools have evolved tremendously over the centuries. Tools once handmade and designed to last a lifetime are now manufactured en masse in factories. Garden tools are often considered collectors’ items and many gardeners form attachments to their tools as though they’re old friends. It is rare to see so many under one roof, and rarer still to see them on display for all gardeners to enjoy! Shears, trowels, wheelbarrows, spades… the list goes on. Come see what you can discover!

photo: Jardins de Métis

Elsie Through the Eyes of… her husband Robert W. Reford

Robert W. Reford was one of Canada’s first amateur photographers. He acquired his Kodak No. 1 in 1888, as soon as this first Kodak hit the market. This would be the beginning of his lifetime passion for photography.

In 1926, when Elsie adds a second storey to Estevan Lodge, she sets up a dark room for her husband. Located in the couple’s private quarters, few ever had the chance to visit this room. This multimedia exhibit grants you the privilege of assisting Robert at work in his darkroom.
This exhibit is complementary to the Elsie through the eyes of… permanent exhibit, which has been presented in the Estevan Lodge since 2018. It lifts the veil on the intimate gaze Robert’s posed on his wife through his camera lens.

Presented on the second floor of Estevan Lodge

photo: Umanium



History goes digital

Fish Stories

Go back in time to explore the history of salmon fishing along the mythical Metis River in Quebec’s Bas-Saint-Laurent region. The rivers, and the salmon that return to spawn in them, have fascinated people since time immemorial. Discover how the Metis River participated in the region’s development and how it went from being a wild oasis to a private one, only to become the protected salmon river it is today.

Find out more

Elsie – In Her Own Words

Elsie In Her Own Words is a virtual exhibit that gives online visitors an opportunity to hear Elsie Reford, the gardens’ creator, read some of the writings that will help you better understand her. In it, we hear Elsie retell personal experiences that were drawn from the writings she left behind discussing everything from her horticultural experiences to summers in Métis and her social, political, and philanthropic involvement during her time spent in Montreal throughout the rest of the year. The exhibit was created by Montreal’s Umanium firm with research by historian Karine Hébert. It was developed with the help of the Société des musées québécois and Quebec’s Ministère de la Culture et des Communications “Programme d’aide en numérique” program.

Find out more

A Trip Around the Gaspé – The Tale of an Epic Road Trip

Internationally recognized for its breathtaking landscapes and coastal route forming an 885 km loop, the Trip Around the Gaspé circuit is now over 90 years old. Through period pictures, stories, and newspaper excerpts, discover the epic story behind the tourist circuit that has long been recognized as a great destination.




Fishing Guides

At times, their identities were known, and at others, they were a mystery. From Indigenous, francophone or anglophone backgrounds, fishing guides were truly the heart and soul of this activity practised in Les Fourches, later renamed Matamajaw, and in Grand-Métis. Their vast knowledge of the rivers running through the fishing camps helped them guide anglers to the best salmon fishing spots. The guides were also indispensable resources for anglers—and their biggest fans when they made the catch of the day.

Fishing guides truly set themselves apart from others working on the river and garnered respect from anglers alike, appearing in photographs and letters, and receiving gifts of gratitude for their knowledge of the land and fish-finding talents

This exhibit pays tribute to the many fishing guides who lived in the region, exploring in depth their hard work, the friendships they forged with those they guided, and their knowledge of the river’s natural resources that they strived to protect.

2023 : Presented at the Site patrimonial de pêche Matamajaw

Scenography: Diane Bernier

Graphics: Sophie Jean