It’s time to take a look at the exciting new arrivals in the Local History Room collection. First, a new display about the history of Winnipeg transit is available for viewing, thanks to collaboration with the City of Winnipeg Archives, City of Winnipeg Transit Department, and Manitoba Transit Heritage; which have all contributed photos and artefacts. Come by and have a look. We also have books about the history of Winnipeg Transit for you to enjoy.
On the frontier : letters from the Canadian West in the 1880s is an updated edition of William Wallace’s collected correspondence with his family in England during the early period of the West’s settlement. This kind of literature where history is seen through everyday personal observations is a pleasure to read as it provides insights about the ordinary struggles and experiences of 19th century prairie life. For a newly arrived settlers in the Canadian West, the geography (just getting to your new homestead is not a simple task when you do it by ox car) and the weather (freezing winters, thunderstorms, and prairie fires only added to the challenges of the hard work necessary to survive) were always on the mind as they worked to make build a home in their adopted country.
Law, life, and government at Red River. Volume 1, Dale Gibson is an original take on the history of the Red River settlement and its diverse population that focuses on the evolution of its governmental and legal system. Up until the Red River Resistance and Manitoba’s entry into Confederation, the colony was run by the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), which struggled at times to create legal institutions that could fairly serve justice to the diverse people that worked and settled in the vast territory it controlled. The result was a unique form of government that struggled to govern the colony up to 1870, gradually adapting to represent the First Nations and Metis peoples and the different groups of settlers that gradually came. In addition to giving a good portrait of ordinary life, its challenges and complexity, the book covers an extensive list of legal cases that the nascent court had to deal with, including accusations of corruption, treason and infanticide.
Relics of interest : selections from the Hudson’s Bay Company Museum Collection is a publication from the Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature that highlights treasured artefacts from the HBC collection with the aid of beautiful photographs and detailed descriptions that provide historical context. These include an ivory statue of the SS Baychimo, Inuit art, tools, and a rifle from the company and even an Halkett boat: an early example of an inflatable boat made around 1850. A brief historic of the HBC and its evolution up to the 20th century is helpfully included.
“If you grew up in Transcona between the 1950s and 1980s you likely will know the name Edna Perry”. Thus was dedicated a street in honour of the person whose autobiography: Prairie girl’s life : the story of The Reverend Edna Lenora Perry has just arrived on our shelves. Edna grew up during the Great Depression in rural Manitoba, her parents both coming from well-off families but now were largely penniless. Starting out as a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse, she fell in love with a British soldier stationed in Canada and followed him to war-torn Britain. Returning to Manitoba in 1947, she became a school principal and then one of the first female Anglican ministers in 1981. This is a simple and tender tale of local a woman who touched many lives and has been justly recognized for it.
Another good example of local history is Memoir of a Smoke Eater, by veteran firefighter Renald Laurencelle. Laurencelle tells of his personal experiences, sometimes terrifying, other times funny, during his 31-year career in the St. Boniface Fire Department. Laurencelle joined Number 2 Fire Hall in 1966 and learned the ropes while coping with tragic situations where fatalities occurred, witnessed famous fires like the one that consumed the St. Boniface Cathedral, and forged life-long friendships with his fellow smoke eaters. The book is not only a valuable piece of personal history, but an homage to a generation of firefighters who had to face tough situations without many of the technological innovations that are now part of present-day firefighting.
Winnipeg has a celebrated musical history with many local household names, but readers now have the opportunity to discover a lesser-known but no less authentic era of our musical scene. Musician and author Sheldon Birnie has recently released Missing like teeth : an oral history of Winnipeg underground rock 1990-2001, which tells the story of this decade in Winnipeg’s (as well as Brandon’s) underground musical scene, especially its punk rock wave. The author paints a vivid picture of the gritty and innovative time, centered in barrooms and basements of community centres, through a series of interviews with local artists (including members of bands like Kittens, Propagandhi, and the Weakerthans) who helped shape a new genre, some who grew in popularity from modest basement gigs to become well-known bands.
If you would like to meet the author in person, Sheldon Birnie and members of the University of Winnipeg’s Oral History Centre will share how oral history can be used to capture stories and characters like those found in his book. The program is entitled Oral History and the Arts: Documenting the Winnipeg Underground Rock Scene and will be held in the Carol Shields Auditorium at Millennium Library on Thursday June 2 from 7 to 8:30 p.m.