This website is designed to provide visitors with some contextual information about the Montreal Signs Project, which currently focuses on a small collection of old signs held at Concordia University. Most of these are now on permanent display in the CJ (Communication Studies and Journalism) Building on the Loyola campus; all were either rescued or donated. The result of years of detective work, tip-offs or sheer luck, the collection offers some insight into different strands of Montréal’s 'ordinary' cultural heritage, its retail history, and changing methods of sign manufacture. 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.

Bens Restaurant sign being assembled
Bens Restaurant signage during recovery and cataloging

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). It would not have been possible without the support of the SSHRC (for Logo Cities; see below) and a development grant from the Office of the Vice-President Research & Graduate Studies. Thanks also to: Dr. Peter Morden (former 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); the many Communication Studies students who have helped out along the way, especially Steve Smith; 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, not to mention his encyclopedic knowledge of Montreal's sign history.

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. Many of the outcomes can be read, seen and heard on this very website, and in Soar's database documentary Almost Architecture (2007). Logo Cities culminated in an eponymous symposium and gallery show held at Concordia in May 2007. A selection of papers from this event appeared in a recent special issue of the journal Design & Culture, edited by Soar. See also the Farine Five Roses Art Project.

Photo from the Bill Kovacevic Collection
Photo from the Bill Kovacevic Collection

IN DETAIL

Montréal, like most other cities, is in a constant state of flux: evolving bylaws and planning regulations; the shifting identities and socioeconomic fortunes of individuals and neighbourhoods; the ebb and flow of certain stores, cafés, restaurants, cinemas, and clubs, through renovation or reinvention. All these changes are sooner or later signaled through the appearance or removal of signage.

An unexpected 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 eleven signs on display at Concordia, the emphasis has been on trying to hang on to valuable pieces of our material culture: the industrial, commercial, and civic detritus that, due to neglect or apathy, would otherwise be lost forever.