Dr. Marcel Moussette

Date award received: 
Dr. Marcel Moussette

Marcel began his studies at the Université de Montréal in biology. This early research resulted in a publication on fishing technologies from the Contact period up to the 20th century (La pêche sur le Saint-Laurent, répertoire des méthodes et des engins de capture, Boreal Express, 1979). He continued his studies in the Department of Anthropology at the Université de Montréal, receiving his master’s degree in 1967. From 1968 to 1980, he worked with Parks Canada, first in Ottawa as a field archaeologist and analyst and then in Quebec City as director of the Québec region's material culture division. The material culture guides he developed in Québec enabled easy and efficient communication within the local community, as they soon became the standard instruments for historical archaeology in French Canada. Revised versions continue to be used today.

Marcel completed his doctoral studies at Université Laval in 1980 with a dissertation based on material from Parks Canada's Forges de Saint-Maurice, in which he addressed the history of domestic heating in Canada. It was later published as Le chauffage domestique au Canada (Presses de l’Université Laval, 1983). His specialty has always been material culture, and he ranks as one of the foremost specialists on French material culture in North America. Marcel has given much thought to the complex contextual meaning of objects, thereby extending his approach to material culture far beyond typologies ("Sens et contresens: l'étude de la culture matérielle au Québec," Canadian Folklore canadien, 1984, 4(1-2):7-25, "L'objet archéologique, réceptacle et générateur de sens," Paléo-Québec, 1995, 23:3-15). The published results of two of his projects (Les terres cuites communes des maisons Estèbe et Boisseau, Collection Patrimoines, Ministère de la Culture et des Communications, dossier 51, 1996; Le site de l’Habitation de Champlain à Québec, Ministère des Affaires culturelles, dossier 58, 1985, with Françoise Niellon) are fundamental references for archaeologists studying the French Regime in North America.

When Marcel joined the faculty of Université Laval in 1981, he started a field school at the Intendant's Palace site in Quebec City, the administrative centre of New France during the French Colonial period. This project, which he ran from 1982 to 1993, was a fertile training ground for both undergraduate and graduate students and generated a large number of graduate theses. His 1994 monograph Le site du Palais de l’intendant à Québec: genèse et structuration d’un lieu urbain (Septentrion) explores the relationships between structural changes that occurred at this site over three and a half centuries. It is an excellent example of the use of contextual archaeology to study the multiple universes of an archaeological site, and it remains a seminal work on urban archaeology. Much of his published research is the result of years of patient work, begun on the Intendant's Palace site and ranging subsequently throughout all of the vast territory of New France, which covered one-third of North America.

During his tenure at Université Laval, Marcel was elected director of the CELAT, an inter-university research centre assembling thirty scholars from five different universities in domains as varied as literature, art history, sociology, semiotics, history, anthropology, and, of course, archaeology. He has published 11 books and 67 articles to date on a broad range of topics—including landscape, religious medals, trade guns, knives, beads, and ceramics—and shows no signs of stopping any time soon. He has also served as editor of a collection of monographs on archaeology, overseeing the publication of 27 volumes. He also published two novels presenting characters living in the urban environment of Quebec City; a third novel is coming out this spring.

His field work was not limited to university field schools. Between 1987 and 1998, Marcel directed a research project on an early agricultural site on Île-aux-Oies, an island in the St. Lawrence River. This research program has greatly expanded scholarly perceptions of the 17th-century rural world by documenting insular subsistence patterns and their influence on land use during the early French Regime. The program has also demonstrated the research potential of rural seigneuries and farmsteads, which had been largely overlooked by Québec archaeologists. This research was published in his 2009 volume Prendre la mesure des ombres: archéologie du site du Rocher de la Chapelle, île aux Oies, Québec (Les Éditions GID).

Marcel has worn many hats during his career. He was a member of the provincial Cultural Properties Commission from 1983 to 1986, playing an instrumental role in directing the protection and development of the province's heritage resources. From 1985 to 2002, he was also co-coordinator for the Memorandum of Agreement for archaeological research between the City of Quebec and Université Laval. He has assumed similar responsibilities in a funding
and research agreement between the City of La Prairie and Université Laval since 2000. These projects have fostered the training of hundreds of undergraduate students and dozens of graduate students in historical archaeology. In 1997, he was accepted as a member of La société des Dix (The Group of Ten), an exclusive multidisciplinary intellectual society founded in 1935. His inaugural essay ("Un héros sans visage: Champlain et 1'archéologie," Les cahiers des Dix, 2000, 54:13-44) addressed the thorny question of the populist archaeological fascination with the tomb of the founder of New France, Samuel de Champlain. Marcel has been a member of countless committees on archaeology, heritage, governance, and even museum acquisitions, underlining his exceptional contributions to the development of heritage and cultural policies beyond the confines of archaeology.

Marcel's key role in developing historical archaeology has been recognized by several prestigious awards. In 1984, he received the Luc-Lacourcière Medal for his book Le chauffage domestique au Canada, while in 1996, he was recognized by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS Canada) for his research on and promotion of Québec’s cultural heritage. The Society for Historical Archaeology granted him the Award of Merit in 2000, while the Association des archéologues du Québec recognized his contributions to archaeology in 2001. In 2005, the Society for Historical Archaeology awarded Marcel their most prestigious recognition, the J. C. Harrington Medal, for his contributions to historical archaeology. That same year, he was recognized as scholar of the week by Radio-Canada for his contributions to the history and archaeology of the City of Quebec. In 2009, Marcel was again recognized in Québec and received the Gérard-Morisset Prize from the Government of Québec for his life’s work, including his contributions to material culture studies and historical archaeology, and for his training of a generation of Québec archaeologists at Université Laval. Finally, in 2010, the Faculty of Arts of Université Laval organized an Awards night in honour of Marcel. This was a highly pertinent recognition because he has supervised a total of 39 master’s students and 5 doctoral students during his career as a scholar.