Jean-Marie Gauvreau, the first Canadian to graduate from the famous École Boulle in Paris, was given the task of organizing a cabinet-making course at the École technique de Montréal in 1930. What he discovers in Quebec disappoints him. What happened to the know-how of long ago?
At the instigation of Gauvreau, the École technique de Montréal became the École du meuble de Montréal in 1935. This institution played an essential role in the emergence and recognition of artistic professions in Quebec. Furthermore, with the aim of preserving this heritage, he founded the Musée de l’École du Meuble in 1940 and began assembling a didactic collection dedicated to artistic professions, including objects form a French Canadian tradition, as well as from Europe and the United States, from the 17th century to the beginning of the 20th century. He corresponds frequently with Marius Barbeau, the founder of Canadian and Quebecker anthropology. Barbeau often sells him works that he has collected himself, in particular the textiles of Charlevoix.
This collection eventually became the property of the Minister of Education, after the arrival of Cégeps. The École du meuble (which became the Institut des Arts Appliqués in 1958) was under the authority of the Cégep du Vieux-Montréal and its components were divided among technical schools: textiles, ceramics, cabinet-making, etc. After a pause from 1967 to 1985, during which the collection was used in part for Expo 67, then stored in poor conditions in Hélène-de-Champlain pavilion as well as the Jacques-Cartier bridge pavilion, the collection was dropped off at the Musée des arts décoratifs (today the Musée du château Dufresne) for a contract lasting 10 years, in 1985. Then, in 1987, Luc D’Iberville Moreau makes a deal with Gérard Lavallée and the collection is moved to the Musée d’art de Saint-Laurent. Finally, in 2005, the Minister of Higher Education and of Science of Quebec consents to giving the collection to the Quebec’s Masters and Artisans Museum.