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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Walking the Paths of Robert W. Reford , by Pierre Fauteux

Equipped with his three Rolleiflex cameras from the 1960s, photographer, anthropologist and museum designer Pierre Fauteux traversed Les Jardins de Métis in the steps of Robert W. Reford. The first “artist in residence” to inhabit the gardens more than a century ago, he was also a pioneer of photography in Canada. To render homage to Elsie Reford’s husband, Pierre Fauteux took up the challenge of capturing this colourful floral paradise using black and white film, more like a sculptor than a painter. The garden spaces go from the descriptive to the suggestive with their heights of depths, textures and forms that are sometimes almost animal-like. By assembling a series of photos taken in sequence, he has created 2D panoramas that are immersive and almost tangible. Combining film and digital techniques, the large-size prints are at once a tribute to photography, to light and to the majesty of the gardens.

Presented on the main floor of Estevan Lodge.

Book your place at the inauguration Saturday the 3rd of July

 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.

Scenography: Diane Bernier

Graphics: Sophie Jean

Look-à-tout by Alexis Aubin-Laperrière

The salmon fisherman’s arsenal contains a tool with a surprising name: the “look-à-tout.” Designed as an inverted periscope, the look-à-tout is used to locate salmon underwater when it’s impossible to see through the surface of the river.
Inspired by this tool, visual artist Alexis Aubin-Laperrière created Look-à-tout by simulating a second or two of viewing salmon in a pool. Printed using the ancient Japanese technique of gyotaku, this six-frame series shows, frame by frame, three salmon in action. In the words of the artist:

“The Japanese developed the practice of gyotaku as a way to inventory species, certify fishing stories (trophies), and pay homage to the nurturing sea. The oldest known and preserved fish prints date back to the early 19th century. Founded at the crossroads between art and scientific recordkeeping, this discipline meshes perfectly with my artistic approach.
In this spirit, I can’t help thinking about the first time a fisherman saw a fish print. I can related to the person who was curious and motivated enough to appropriate this craft, most likely purely by coincidence: A cuttlefish caught in a net releases its ink, staining the other fish, which leave imprints on the deck of the boat. This view of the origins of gyotaku is what guides me to pursue this spontaneous method.”

Alexis Aubin-Laperrière was born in Chicoutimi in 1987. Established in Montreal since 2005, he undertook university studies there which led him to develop his artistic practice which he now pursues alongside his career as an art teacher.

Park Purposes : Olmsted at 200

A Photographic Retrospective by Geoffrey James

«A park is a work of art, designed to produce certain effects upon the mind of men. There should be nothing in it absolutely nothing – not a foot of surface nor a spear of grass – which does not repesent study, design, a sagacious consideration & application of known laws of cause & effect with reference to that end »

F.L. Olmsted, « Park Purposes », 1868

Olmsted at 200 is a distillation of photographic work by Geoffrey James of the parks, cemetaries and public spaces designed by pioneer American landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted. A journalist turned park superintendant, Olmsted transformed American cities and campuses in the 19th century, beginning with his hiring to oversee the construction of Central Park in New York City in 1857.

This exhibition is a celebration of the 200th anniversary of Olmsted. It is also a celebration of the life and work of Canadian photographer Geoffrey James who dedicated seven years to finding the beauty and decay in Olmsted parks in the 1990s.  

“Olmsted is central to North America, or to certain periods of it…There was an incredible energy in the building of these parks, an energy, a will to have them, which doesn’t exist anymore. And some of the means to do it, which also probably don’t exist anymore because the cities are too developed. The parks occurred at an absolutely strategic moment, and they were very important.”

Geoffrey James, 1995 interview with David Harris. from Viewing Olmsted

Geoffrey James also began his career as a journalist. He became a professional photographer in the 1980s, first using a vintage Kodak No. 1 Panoram camera to capture the gardens of Italy and France. He was one of three photographers (Lee Friedlander and Robert Burley were the others) commissioned by the Canadian Centre for Architecture to document Olmsted landscapes for the Viewing Olmsted exhibition held at the CCA in Montreal in 1996.  

Geoffrey James is a Fellow of the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, Chicago, and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, New York. He is the recipient of the Victor Lynch Staunton Prize of the Canada Council, the Roloff Beny Foundation Photography Book Award and has received the Gershon Iskowitz Foundation Prize. James is a member of the Royal Canadian Academy.

Olmsted at 200 A Photographic Retrospective by Photographer Geoffrey James is the inaugural exhibition in a new space at the Reford Gardens. The Great Hall, designed by Atelier Pierre Thibault with Marie-Hélène Nollet architect, will open during the summer of 2022. To go visit the exhibition while you’re at the gardens, please call 418-775-2221 ext. 221 or ext. 226. 

RESTAURATION by Mark Raynes Roberts FGE

“The Covid pandemic has changed the world we live in, limiting our interaction with one another and reordering how we communicate as human beings.

The idea for “RESTORATION” grew from my own experiences during the pandemic and recognition of how important nature had become during these extraordinary times. This collection of art works represents two years of creation and showcases landscapes and the familiar rhythms and patterns of life which connect us all.

This has been a time of reflection, and now is a time to restore the human spirit.

When we are with nature we feel renewed and humbled by its magnificence. That is a beautiful paradox…we feel better…because we feel less. It liberates us, and helps us see what is truly important. It helps us heal.”

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.


REMARQUABLES is an artistic project that brings together six women writers and one photographer around the art of kasàlà, a form of writing that celebrates the self and the other from the African tradition. Six women who all have an artistic practice, have worked in the fields of education, teaching, and cultural mediation. They are also artists who question their identity, whether they were born here or whether the Bas-Saint-Laurent is a chosen territory for them. By inviting them, we wished that they could stop a moment and turn towards themselves this openness, this kindness they have integrated into their own practice. Anna Cone, Lisan D. Chng, Nadia Gagné, Patricia Posadas, Jeanne-Marie Rugira are joined by Élise Argouarc’h in writing and photographed by Laurie Cardinal.

The Way of Beauty

An audio and visual experience in a remarkable place of history and nature 

Théâtre les gens d’en bas joins forces with the Reford Gardens to offer visitors the theatrical promenade The Way of Beauty

Adapted from the work of writer François Cheng by Eudore Belzile, the text is about Beauty in all its ways. Beauty of nature, of beings, of the arts. The author invites us to truly SEE our environment, to abandon ourselves to the mystery of the universe and to the mystery of artistic creation through voice, music, song, dance and pictorial art. 

Wandering the splendor of the Gardens, the spectator is invited to an audio and visual experience. Narrator’s voice, actress Catherine Allard, blends with the instrumental music of Claude Léveillée, mixed with natural sounds of the site. 

An aesthetic, poetic and spiritual experience, a balm to the soul for these uncertain times. 

The podcast is $8 in addition to the cost of admission to the Jardins de Métis.

Available until September 29th


  • Text: François Cheng 
  • Adapted, designed and directed by Eudore Belzile 
  • Production manager: Anne Plamondon 
  • French version and on-screen narration: Marie-Thérèse Fortin 
  • English narration: Catherine Allard 
  • Lyrical singing: Émilie Tremblay 
  • Choreography and dance: Fabien Piché 
  • Design and costumes: Marc Senécal 
  • Lighting and technical direction: André Rioux 
  • Video: photo direction, editing: Marc Lepage 
  • Piano, environment and sound editing: Antoine Létourneau-Berger 




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 the 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.