Expo 67 is Alive and Well

Delving into Montreal’s amazing archives brings back the biggest event ever!

By Mario Robert, Chief of the Archives Section, Ville de Montréal

Since the beginning of the 1960s, the City of Montréal Archives have been systematically collecting the documents, brochures and posters produced by the Corporation for the 1967 World Exhibition.

This set of documents is grouped in a collection (P67), which is comprised of almost 900 items and includes 42 posters.

Expo 67 Poster, c. 1966. Photo credit – City of Montréal Archives

The collection also includes a series of photographs (negatives and slides) mainly of the construction of the islands, a series of images produced for the Urban Planning Department on site during the summer and fall of 1967, as well as relevant records on the choice of location from the archives of the Executive Committee.

It is important to mention that the Corporation’s official archives are kept at Library and Archives Canada (LAC) and include over 100 metres of documents, almost 50,000 photographs and thousands of other documents of all types.

Aerial view of the site of Expo 67 under construction, September 23, 1967 Photo Credit: Marcel Houle

Indeed, in 1963, this federal company’s charter provided for the retention of archives in Ottawa from the moment the activities ended. In 1968, when the City acquired the site to re-open the exhibition as Man and His World, we received 72 microfilms of technical documents related to the overall project and the participating countries’ pavilions.

Image from a slideshow on the advertising of Expo 67, December 20, 1966. Photo credit – City of Montréal Archives

In autumn 2001, National Archives of Canada propose a collaboration with the City Archives to put together a virtual exhibition on Expo 67 to celebrate it’s 35th anniversary in 2002. Our knowledge of the event, along with the documents we have for the beginning of the adventure and activities subsequent to Man and His World on the site of the islands, made the City an essential partner for this project. Launched in November, 2002, the exhibition rapidly became an important virtual reference for Expo 67.

Advertisement in Venture, the Traveler’s World (New York, April/May 1967, Vol. 4, No. 2, p. 117) from a slideshow on the advertising of Expo 67, December 20, 1966. Photo credit – City of Montréal Archives

This project brought upon a desire to collect archives from those who worked at, knew about or simply loved Expo 67. In June 2003, a first collection of private archives was offered to us at the suggestion of one of the pioneers and great leaders of Expo 67, Yves Jasmin. The latter, as Director of Public Relations, Information and Advertising for the Expo 67 Corporation, convinced Larry Shachter, his head of the Advertising Division, to give us his archives.

In addition to speeches and conferences, this archival collection also contains certain promotional items, such as a beach ball; photographs, such as those of the advertisement at Macy’s in New York City or a set of slides (or slideshow) on the sale of; as well as journals and magazines that advertised Expo 67.

Over the course of the following years, (2004-2010), we have acquired four collection from people who visited the site several times: Gilbert Ouellet (P123), Vladimir and Michel Sokolyk (P124), Charles Clément (P140) and Guy Bouthillier (P141). The latter, unlike the other, was a professional photographer who worked for the Montréal-Matin, La Patrie, Dernière Heure and Dimanche Matin.

The crowd at Expo 67 and the USSR pavilion, 1967. Photo credit – Gilbert Ouellet

Our colleague, Michel Marsan (P112), archiviste at the Montreal Urban Community and retired from the City of Montreal since 2005, gave us his Expo employee documents. He began his career at the Corporation for the 1967 World Exhibition as a messenger and inventory agent at the administration pavilion, and then as data controller in the Operation Control Centre. His archives include photographs, his youth passport, a film and prints.

The Canada pavilion in the event, with the Western provinces pavilion in the foreground, 1967. Photo credit – City of Montréal Archives

Finally, in our four kilometres of archives that cover the history of the municipal administration since the beginning of the 19th century, scattered pieces pertaining to this exceptional event that continues to fascinate the Montreal population.