About the Montreal Signs Project
The Montréal Signs Project is a growing collection of some of the city’s most memorable commercial signs. Many of these rescued or donated signs are on display in the CJ Building on Concordia’s Loyola campus. The result of several years of detective work, tip-offs or sheer good luck, the collection offers insights into different strands of Montréal’s cultural and commercial heritage: post-war histories of immigration and settlement; changing technologies of signmaking; the shifting boundaries of neighbourhoods. They are not a representative sample of signs in Montréal, but a reflection of just some of the local enterprises that have seen significant changes, or have been lost entirely, in recent years.
The Montréal Signs Project was conceived by Matt Soar (Associate Professor of Communication Studies, Concordia University) in collaboration with Nancy Marrelli (Archivist Emerita, Concordia University Archives). The MSP would not have been possible without the support of the SSHRC (for Logo Cities) and a development grant from the Office of the Vice-President Research & Graduate Studies. Thanks also to: Dr. Peter Morden (Associate Dean, Academic Facilities, Faculty of Arts & Science); Dr. Justin Powlowski (Interim Director, Office of Research); Dr. Graham Carr (VP, Research/Graduate Studies), Dr. Carole Brabant (ex-Director of Research/Innovation); Dr. Cynthia Hammond (Art History); Ms. Francine Levi (Principal Director of Development, Arts & Science); Mr. Derek Linetsky (Development Officer, Arts & Science); the many Communication Studies students who have helped out along the way, especially Steve Smith; Alison Naturale for recent website design improvements; and, Cate Cadbury for her efficient translation work. Last but not least, a huge thank you to Mr. Bill Kovacevic of Pattison Signs for his enthusiastic support of the entire project.
The Montréal Signs Project is a legacy of Logo Cities, a research/creation initiative begun in 2004 by Matt Soar. From the outset, Logo Cities was conceived as a transmedial critique of hypercommercialism in the urban environment, focusing on signs and public lettering. A major outcome is the database documentary Almost Architecture. Logo Cities culminated in an eponymous symposium and gallery show held at Concordia in May 2007. A selection of papers from this event appear in a recent special issue of the journal Design & Culture, edited by Soar. See also the Farine Five Roses Art Project.
A project of this kind must also address the highly localized politics of commerce and culture, within which the signs marking out particular stores, restaurants or municipal buildings can become potent markers of identity, memory and belonging based on one’s daily work routines and leisure activities. Montréal, like most other cities, is in a constant state of flux: evolving bylaws and planning regulations; the shifting identities and socioeconomic fortunes of individual neighbourhoods; the coming and going of specific stores, cafés, restaurants, cinemas, and clubs, be it renovation or reinvention. All these changes are sooner or later signaled through the appearance or removal of signage.
Inevitably, then, an unexpected but no less valid outcome of Logo Cities has been Soar’s own modest interventions in terms of salvaging particular signs which were — or are still — under threat of removal and destruction. From the Farine Five Roses sign (the future of which is far from certain) to the seven signs on display from the current collection, the emphasis has been on trying to save valuable pieces of our material culture: the industrial, commercial, and civic detritus that, due to neglect or apathy, would otherwise be lost forever.