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Preserving our heritage

Becoming a museum

A little less than a kilometre away from L’Exposition Maritime, the old shipyard and its three retired schooners still delighted photographers. J.A.Z. Desgagnés was not very keen on the idea of granting the public access to the site. But after being slowly persuaded by Marie-Paule whom he met on his regular trips to the bakery, he finally accepted to rent the site for a nominal amount. And so the Musée maritime de Charlevoix was founded!

View of a riverbank with four ships. In the middle, flames and grey smoke rise out of a wooden ship. In the foreground a sign in the brown grass reads: “Exposition maritime”.

A fire at the museum


The museum converted the old sawmill into an exhibition space in the early 1990, partially restoring the Mont Royal and Mont Notre-Dame, and acquiring the Jean-Yvan schooner. In 1998, a devastating fire burned down the Mont Ste-Marie, the Mont Royal and the Mont Notre-Dame. Undeterred, the museum went on to acquire the Marie-Clarisse II, a fishing schooner, and the St-André.

A woman is standing behind a lectern featuring the logo of Heritage Canada. She is giving a speech. Behind her there are two flags and a scale model of a ship.

Pierrette Tremblay, then director of the museum

At the Musée maritime de Charlevoix, it was mainly the wives of navigators who were in charge of preserving this heritage. Carole, Pierrette, Danielle, Louisane, Kathleen and Hélène, all women of the Desgagnés family, either by blood or marriage, have now been managing, archiving and designing exhibitions for nearly 40 years.

For several years, Captain Yvan Desgagnés dedicated all of his leadership into presiding over the destiny of the museum. Michel, an ethnologist and researcher, has conducted research on the schooners of Charlevoix. Fernand, a business man and seasoned navigator has invested a lot of time and money on the Marie-Clarisse fishing schooner. His brother Yves, a stage performer, put his talent to work by hosting many fundraising events. His little cousin Hubert, a retired officer of the Canadian Coast Guard now acted as a scientific consultant. Martin, the man behind the beauty of the site, became its fervent groundskeeper.

A photograph of the site of the Musée maritime de Charlevoix. In the foreground we see part of the Jean-Yvan schooner’s hull, painted white, black, yellow and red. Rails form straight line leading to two more boats adorned with flags. To the left, a couple of rowboats are resting on the ground.

The Jean-Yvan Schooner on the grounds of the Musée Maritime de Charlevoix


Other sailors, equally passionate about navigation like the Belleys, Tremblays, Lavoies, Harveys and Maillouxes, helped to anchor the museum to the shipyards.

A grey stone-paved path leads to two buildings. The one on the left is grey with a green roof with “Musée maritime de Charlevoix” written on it. The second building is a few metres away to the right and has a slanted roof. There is a grassy area all around.

Two buildings of the Musée maritime de Charlevoix

The site is now classified as a National Historic Site of Canada thanks to the many ships that were refitted there, and the preservation of the original buildings and wooden schooners.