Permanent Exhibition

The Island Acadians: The Story of a People

A Permanent Exhibition Produced by the
Acadian Museum of Prince Edward Island 

This permanent exhibition, through its five sections, will allow you to discover the treasures of a people who have been present on Prince Edward Island for almost three centuries.  In 1720, the first Acadians settled here on the Island, which was then known as Isle Saint-Jean. Despite many setbacks, this tenacious people, proud of its heritage, continues to the present day in preserving its Acadian culture and French language.

The five sections of the exhibition include a diorama, 25 text panels, 145 photographs / illustrations and 124 artifacts representing the history and material culture of the Acadians of Prince Edward Island from 1720 to today.

 The five sections include:

  • Acadie and the Acadians
  • The French Regime
  • Resettlement
  • The Awakening
  • The Contemporary Society from 1930 to the Present

The exhibition’s introduction, Acadie and the Acadians, describes the Acadian people, their origin and the meaning of the place name “Acadie”.

An Acadian Family on Malpeque Bay, 18th Century, pre-Deportation. Painting by David Webber.

The following section is entitled The French Regime, 1720-1758.  It recounts the beginning of the first colony on Isle Saint-Jean in the summer of 1720:  the erection of fortifications; the first French settlers, their total number and occupations in a 1734 Census; and the arrival of the first Acadian families, as early as 1720, who took refuge on the Island in increasing numbers in 1755, the year the Deportation began on the mainland.  This section ends with England taking over and deporting many Acadians from Isle Saint-Jean to France in 1758.

Resettlement, 1758-1860 makes up the third section and describes the return to the Island of some Acadian exiles; the surveying of the land and its reorganization into 67 lots allocated to English landowners; the first Acadian settlements; the problems caused by the landownership system which forced the Acadians to move several times and start clearing land elsewhere; and finally, the establishment of the first Acadian schools and the first community institution, the parish, by the Catholic Church.  The fact that the Acadians formed a separate people and that they had a subsistence economy is emphasized.

Stanislaus Poirier, the first Acadian representative elected to the Legislative Assembly of PEI in 1854

Acadian nationalism surfaced during The Awakening, 1860-1930.  This section explains the important changes that took place in the Island Acadian community after 1860, for instance the emergence of a group of relatively well-educated men who took on the mission to raise their compatriots to the same social, economic and political level enjoyed by English-speaking Islanders.

The Acadians of the Maritime Provinces adopted a national holiday, a flag, an emblem, a motto and a national anthem.  A number of institutions were also established, such as the Société Saint-Thomas-d’Aquin promoting the development of the Acadian community, and the first Acadian entrepreneurs and merchants emerged.  A changing economy characterizes the Acadian farmers and fishermen of this period.

The last section of the exhibition, The Contemporary Society from 1930 to the Present, describes today’s Island Acadie:  the industries which indicate a diversified economy; its key players who fight against the increasing assimilation rate; and its culture, still alive and well.