24 mars 2023

The Reford Gardens brings together many areas of expertise. Often, when the name is mentioned, the first areas that come to mind are horticulture, because of the beautiful historic gardens, and architecture, because of the International Garden Festival, which brings together an array of world-renowned designers. However, one of the major pillars of the institution is museology. Our director, Alexander Reford, himself a historian by training, works tirelessly with Marjelaine Sylvestre, director of the museum department, as well as Gisèle Villacorta-Murcia, collections archivist, and Philippe Denis, museologist, to showcase the superb collection of objects that belonged to Elsie Reford, the creator of the gardens. Elsie’s objects and gardens are a gold mine, with more research, new treasures and stories emerge. Museology, then, is imperative to the gardens – it is the great web that binds the entire organization together and makes it so complete.

Being responsible for this complex web is no small task. So, a while ago, the museum department team called on an ally to get involved in its projects: Pierre Fauteux, founder of Umanium, a consulting firm in artistic direction, museology and publishing specialized in the enhancement of heritage. Pierre has dedicated his career to the deployment of exhibitions for heritage sites – as can be seen, for example, when visiting the permanent exhibition at Estevan Lodge, where a light scenography highlights the exhibition, but also the architecture of the building in which it is deployed, the second storey of Elsie Reford’s summer residence.

It becomes easy to guess why this match was so easy. Pierre is a lover of heritage, gardens and photography – he would certainly have hit it off with Elsie and her husband Robert, sharing the same passions and interests. This is why he and his team have been so involved with the gardens over the past few years – including becoming a consultant and mentor to the museum staff since 2019.


So today, we offer you a notebook in the form of a timeline and article.

The virtual exhibition Elsie in Her Own Words
Project start date: 2016
Launch of the exhibition: March 2017

The permanent exhibition Elsie Through the Eyes of…
Project start date: 2017
Exhibition opening: May 2018

The catalogue of the permanent exhibition Elsie Through the Eyes of…
Project start date: Fall 2018
Catalogue launch: July 2019

The sequel to the permanent exhibition Elsie Through the Eyes of… her husband Robert W. Reford
Project start date: 2020
Exhibition opening: June 2021

SUMMER 2021 | Theme : photography

Camera obscura
Project start date: 2020
Presented at the gazebo in front of the Villa Estevan in the summer of 2021 and 2022.

Temporary exhibition Robert W. Reford and His Encounter with the Other
Presented at Estevan Lodge in the summer of 2021

Temporary exhibition On the Paths of Robert W. Reford and publication of the book of the same name
Exhibition and publication: June 2021

Podcast From Downton Abbey to the Reford Gardens
Project start date: Fall 2021
Launch of the podcast: summer 2022

Temporary exhibition Fishing Guides
Project start date: 2021
Presented at Estevan Lodge in summer 2022 and will be presented at the Matamajaw Fishing Club Heritage Site in summer 2023

Book Elsie Reford : 150 Objects of Passion
Project start date: Fall 2021
Book launch: January 2023


Having already visited the Reford Gardens many times and loving the place, a dream was born in Pierre’s head. He decided to meet with the Gardens’ team to introduce  Umanium and its services. This was the start of the Elsie in her Own Words virtual exhibition project, as well as the narrative for the permanent exhibition Elsie Through the Eyes of… which then led to the development of several other projects.

Over time, Pierre became the museum team’s mentor in the popularization of Elsie’s life and historical documents. His gentle and empathetic nature makes it easy for him to put himself in the visitor’s shoes and highlight objects of all kinds, from a simple table centerpiece to Elsie’s important role in Montreal society at the time.


Pierre was fascinated by the extensive archives of the Amis des Jardins de Métis collection. Robert W. Reford, owner of a Kodak No. 1 portable camera, the first camera intended for the general public, made him the first Canadian amateur photographer – so his life and that of his wife Elsie Reford was extremely well-documented. R.W. Reford later had a Kodak Panoram No. 4, which, as its name suggests, was a camera that took panoramic photographs. Being immersed in these photographs inspired Pierre to do an art residency project in 2019 and 2020 to produce his temporary exhibition On the Paths of Robert W. Reford in 2021, as well as the publication of a book of the same name. Armed with his Rolleiflex, he took panoramic photographs of the historic gardens in black and white, following the same paths as Robert.


In 2021, in conjunction with the creation of the Fishing Guides exhibition, work began on the book Elsie Reford: 150 Objects of Passion. Pierre and his firm Umanium oversaw the book’s editing and printing – precise work that gives the book the elegance and prestige Elsie would have wanted.

Our collaborations with Pierre have definitely shaped my vision of museology. He is a natural teacher, always willing to give good advice and guide us through the projects without leaving any detail to chance. Therefore, when we started discussions for the publication of a book to celebrate Elsie’s 150th anniversary, it was obvious that Pierre had to be part of the team. There was no one better suited to help us realize such an ambitious project.

Marjelaine Sylvestre, Director of the Museum Department of the Reford Gardens

It is a symbiotic relationship between the Reford Gardens and Pierre, both of them inspiring the other.

Pierre Fauteux has brought to the projects we have created together two essential talents, his passion and his critical eye. With his experience as a creator of visitor experiences and his talents as a photographer, the various projects with Umanium are all notable for their strong visual signature and attention to detail. He has also been a pleasure to work with, as have been the multiple members of his teams assembled from many horizons. The organic nature of our collaborations, ranging from exhibitions to podcasts, publications to outdoor installations, belie a strong narrative link. As an ensemble, they have unveiled the hidden secrets of Elsie Reford’s gardens and the photographic work of her husband, R.W. Reford, dusting off the past and making them both resolutely relevant and very contemporary.

Alexander Reford, Director of the Reford Gardens

For 2023, Pierre is involved in the new permanent display that will take form on the interpretive screen at the entrance to the gardens – the long fence that runs along the site as visitors approach the ticket booth – a great enhancement for those emerging from Le Bufton with a shrimp guédille from Chef Frédérick Boucher. Pierre is also the artistic director of the Digital Access to Heritage project, which aims to put the historic and living collections of the Reford Gardens online. The digital publication of this project is scheduled to be completed in March, 2024.