A remarkable curator and oral historian, and a long-standing member of the COHDS community, Catherine Charlebois has been Head of Section at MEM – Centre des mémoires montréalaises (the new Centre d’histoire de Montréal) since 2019. Previously, she held the position of museologist in charge of exhibitions and collections. Since 2009, she has coordinated numerous exhibition projects in which oral history plays a key role: Les Habitations Jeanne-Mance. 50 ans d’histoireS, Quartiers disparus and Scandale! Vice, crime et moralité à Montréal, 1940-1960 and Explosion67.Terre des Jeunes. Involved in the COHDS community as a board member, Catherine also led a plethora of workshops and roundtables.
Catherine’s dedicated to the power of community-based oral history and belief in the power of storytelling is also electrifying. In her words, “oral history transforms museums and opens up a field of possibilities. The only way to make stories shine is to go to people and talk to them, and convince them that they have a story to tell.”
For the last few years, this dedication has been fuelling the transformation of the MEM’s permanent collection as Catherine shepherded the change and move to its new location on the corner of Ste-Catherine and St-Laurent. In Steven High’s words, who nominated Catherine for the prize, “The process was highly collaborative from beginning to end. There is also space set aside for collaborative community-based projects – an ongoing invitation to share interpretative authority.”