Redpath Museum at McGill University

Opened in 1880 as Canada‘s first natural history museum, the Redpath Museum has a charmingly old-school Victorian quality to it. The collection of artifacts assembled by intrepid explorers ranges from taxidermy and Egyptian mummies to geological samples and—one of its most prized possessions—a handwritten letter from Charles Darwin. The museum is located at the heart of McGill University, long one of Canada‘s most important institutions of higher learning. Most of the buildings on campus, all in a handsome gray stone on a lovely bit of green in downtown Montréal at the base of Mount Royal, date from the 19th and early 20th centuries.

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Cabinet of Curiosities

The Redpath Museum on McGill University’s campus is in the oldest building in Canada constructed as a museum (it dates from 1882 and is one of the country’s most noteworthy examples of Greek Revival architecture). Originally built to house the collection of Sir William Dawson, a natural scientist and later principal of McGill, there is still an appealingly Victorian quality to the collection here, which spans natural history, geology, archeology, and anthropology. As you wander, you’ll jump from a display of colorful seashells to Egyptian mummies to First Nations weavings. It all leaves you with the feeling that you are perusing the random and diverse finds of 19th-century gentlemen explorers, in part because that’s exactly what the Redpath’s collection consists of, along with some more contemporary additions. The gorilla seen here, nicknamed George, has been an unofficial mascot of the Redpath for decades. Admission is free, so it’s worth dropping in even if only for a quick look at the eclectic items on display.

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