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Borealis Paper Museum, Trois-Rivieres, Quebec


Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, along the St Lawrence and St Maurice rivers (we'll explain the town name of Three Rivers later) is in lumber country. And water power country. And that's why it spent most of the 20th century as one of the world's largest producers of newsprint paper, with over 6,000 workers.

P1260175A series of panels open the exhibits, showing the work of the lumberjacks and others who moved logs down the St Maurice to the plants.

It still is a paper-producing town, but at nowhere near the volume it once did, and the site of one of the largest bygone mills, where Canadian International Paper covered the whole point of a peninsula where the rivers flowed together is now home to Borealis, a museum that aims to tell the tale of paper and the people who made it.

P1260174The Canadian International Paper plants at Trois-Rivieres in the 1950s

It's a heritage Canada takes seriously: in 2006, the Quebec pulp and paper industry was designated a Historic National Event, along with Jacques Cartier's arrival, the fur trade in Lachine, the Treaty of Montreal, and the establishment of the Ursuline convent in Trois-Rivieres and shipbuilding in Quebec.

20220702_12120920220702_121203This observation point sits above the water intake for the plant

The museum is an original building from the complex, but not an actual paper mill. It's actually the filter building that sucked huge quantities of river into a huge underground reservoir beneath the site, whose tunnels are now open to visitors.


The filter building stored, filtered and pumped 20 million gallons a day at its peak in the 1950s, helping to produce a thousand tons of newsprint a day. It pumped water at different pressures and volumes to mechanical debarkers and pulpers, chemical pulpers and to the paper-making machines. Twenty percent went for washing up machines and factory.


Below the main floor level, adjacent to the reservoir, an amazing collection of pipes, joints, pumps and gauges only begin to hint at what it must have looked like with water rushing through and fully-staffed.


Off to one side of that level, across a walkway, is an area where groups, especially school groups, can come for interactive projects including making their own papers. We wandered in and were quickly ushered out: It's only for groups, we were politely told.


On the main exhibit floor, aside from the narrative panels about the role of the industry, there is a series of kiosks illustrating different aspects of the world's use of paper and its history, topped with a variety of wood and paper artifacts.


Including a large roll of apparently used and re-rolled newsprint (no explanation offered). A portion of the ceiling is covered with a mesh of logs


How to make trees into lumber...


And, how to make former trees into paper...


The photograph above shows a small papermaking machine, which presses wet pulp fibers together, squeezes out the water and creates a continuous role of paper. The museum has a small machine also. Well, small by their standards. It was built to use in training, and despite its apparent huge size, it is only one-fifth the size of the ones that were used at the plant.


Trois-Rivieres, the second-oldest European settlement in Quebec, is halfway between Quebec City and Montreal—a good pause in a trip, or worth an overnight itself. In addition to Borealis, it also has Musee POP, a museum of Quebec popular culture and a museum at the former Ursuline school and convent.


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The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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