Sisters of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame – Archives Department

   2330, Sherbrooke St. W, Montréal (Québec) H3H 1G8
   514-931-5891, ext. 253

Monday to Friday, 9 am to 12 noon and 1 pm to 4 pm
By appointment only.
Requests can be addressed to archivists via email, telephone, or post. The archives department receives researchers by appointment only, according to researchers’ needs and archivists’ availability.

The Congrégation de Notre-Dame’s Archives Department was officially created in 1877. It represents the collective memory of the first non-cloistered feminine religious community in North America, founded in Ville-Marie (Montreal) by Marguerite Bourgeoys (1620-1700).
Marguerite Bourgeoys arrived in Ville-Marie in 1653 at the invitation of governor Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve to participate in the colony’s development and to teach children. She opened Montréal’s first school in 1658. In 1669, Monseigneur de Laval authorized the Congrégation de Notre-Dame, founded by Marguerite, to teach everywhere in his diocese which included all of New France. The Congregation was recognized civilly by Letters Patent delivered by King Louis XIV in 1671, and as a religious community by Monseigneur de Saint-Vallier, bishop of the diocese of Quebec, in 1698. The Congregation expanded and received papal approbation in 1863.  
Over the course of the centuries, the Congrégation de Notre-Dame’s operations developed across four continents and included, among other activities, the foundation and administration of several hundred schools, primarily in Canada (1658), the United States (1860) and Japan (1932). At the turn of the twentieth century, the Congregation became more actively involved in the movement to expand women’s access to higher education. Marguerite Bourgeoys became Canada’s first female saint in 1982. The Sisters of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame currently pursue their mission of a liberating education in solidarity with struggling and marginalized peoples in eight countries.

The archival documents which constitute the fonds and collections of the Sisters of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame bear witness to the evolution of the religious community since  Marguerite Bourgeoys’s arrival in Ville Marie in 1653. Documents created before the nineteenth century are rare, however, due to fires that broke out at the Mother House leading to losses in documents in 1683, 1768, and 1893. Each time, the nuns were charged with reconstructing the institutional memory according to their available means.
The heart of the fonds and collections is composed of documents which bear witness to the history of the over 340 schools founded or administered by the nuns of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame since 1658, from kindergarten to university. They provided an education for girls from a wide range of backgrounds and social realities. In our fonds, one finds a majority of parish and community schools, but also several academies and boarding schools. One also  discovers information concerning the communal life of the nuns, scholarly and extracurricular life of their students, life within the parishes, cities, and towns, the architecture of buildings, etc.
The Congrégation de Notre-Dame produced numerous textbooks and workbooks for their students and sometimes for their professors. These publications, like other archival documents, attest to the evolution of the education system and of teaching methods, but also to all kinds of other changes in society.

Other collections
The archives department also manages several other collections of interest:

  • Collection of arts archives (works of fine art and pieces created by the nuns)
  • Collection of written works of the CDN (publications by the nuns, including textbooks)
  • Collection of antique books (published between 1585 and 1885)
  • Collection of medals and small commemorative objects
  • Collection of postcards

Time span covered by archives: 1585-today
Technical specifications and maps: approx. 2,500
Iconographic documents: approx. 30,000
Text documents: approx. 560 m.l.
Number of fonds: approx. 2,000

The archives department’s mandate has two components: to serve the Congrégation de Notre-Dame by being its living memory and to teach people about the its contributions to society since its inception.