As a local history librarian, you might say that community histories, the ones related to Manitoba in any case, are my bread and butter. They contain treasures of information for people interested in history or in family history. Besides telling the beginnings of a town or city, a community history tells the story of its institutions (schools, hospitals, churches, etc.), its notable businesses, the events that marked its history, and most importantly, the people who made up that community. Though leaders and exceptional men and women that marked their history will always have a place of choice in its pages, often a community history will devote a large part to chronicling the everyday lives of the families who resided or continue to reside there, ensuring that their memories are preserved.
The collection of the Local History Room has been enriched by several new titles of towns, neighborhoods or schools celebrating important anniversaries. This is not surprising since the early 20th century marked the peak of Manitoba’s demographic and economic expansion.
The town of Bissett just celebrated its centennary with the publication of their community history: Bissett: 100 Years of Gold . Winnipeg’s own Chinatown marked their own centennary in 2009 with their book Winnipeg Chinatown : celebrating 100 years : a remarkable achievement, 1909-2009, but the book was only recently released. Finally, also recently received is St. John’s High, 1910-2010 : passing the torch, a commemorative book filled with stories from its famous and less-famous past graduates.
Local author Kenneth Howard released last year Stories of Selkirk’s pioneers and their heritage : in commemoration of Selkirk’s 125th anniversary to celebrate yet another landmark in our province’s history.
On a related topic, the Manitobia website has added new digitized material freely available to everyone. For those not aware of it, Manitobia is a site created by the Manitoba Library Consortium that contains a fully searchable database of more than 100,000 pages of newspapers in English and French, from Winnipeg, Brandon and smaller centres across the province. The site is divided into six historical themes,including the Riel Rebellion, the winning of womens’ suffrage, and the Winnipeg General Strike among others.
In addition to this, an extensive list of digitized Manitoban community histories, from Altona to Zbaraz, is now available. Some of these towns are are quite small and their publications quite rare, which makes their preserved history that much more valuable, especially for genealogists or historians.
These are but a few examples of the histories available at the Winnipeg Public Library, and we can look forward to many more in the years to come.