Tag Archives: Louis-Philippe@WPL

What’s New in the Local History Room?

It’s time to stop and have a look at the newly-arrived Manitoba reads in the Local History Room.
Cover image for Red River girl : the life and death of Tina Fontaine
The shocking murder of 15 year-old Tina Fontaine, found dead in the Red River, made national headlines in 2014 and led to the government conducting a national inquiry on missing and murdered Indigenous women. Red River Girl by British journalist Joanna Jolly is based on extensive face-to-face interviews, police records and trial testimonies  and documents Tina’s life in the weeks up to the events that led to her life being tragically cut short. The focus of the book then shifts to the efforts of Project Styx, the undercover operation that ultimately led to the arrest of suspect Ray Cormier, and the wider search for justice from Tina’s family and community.
 Image result for Festival du Voyageur HÉ HO! : a celebration of culture and heritage
An excellent (and long overdue in my opinion) retrospective book about our most well-known winter festival, spearheaded by Lucienne Beaudry: Festival du Voyageur HÉ HO! : a celebration of culture and heritageEvery February since its debut in 1969, tens of thousands from all over the globe flock to St. Boniface, Manitoba, to attend the largest winter celebration in Western Canada⁠—the Festival du Voyageur. For its duration, these visitors can experience the customs and ways of the men and women who settled the prairies after the arrival of La Verendrye in 1734. The richly-illustrated book offers an informative account of the successes and challenges, and gives homage to the volunteers and famous guests who took part in the festival in the past 50 years.
Cover image for Assiniboine Park : designing and developing a people's playground
In 1904, Assiniboine Park was conceived as a people’s playground, a place devoid of commercial amusements where all classes of Winnipeggers could relax and rejuvenate in idyllic and Arcadian surroundings. This is the story that David Spector’s Assiniboine Park : designing and developing a people’s playground tells as it traces the development of the park and its infrastructure⁠—the layout of fields, forests and gardens, the two pavilions, the conservatories and the zoo which became its most well-known features. The park’s design was the subject of a decade-long debate between board members and politicians, and it is surprising to learn of some of the proposed ideas for the park that didn’t make the cut, notably a golf course and a man-made beach. Having enjoyed many strolls and events in this park, this was an instructive and enjoyable read.
Image result for Forgotten history : the untold stories of Manitoba's first provincial jail 1881-1930
Another local institution recently given the literary treatment by historian Kristen Treusch is the oldest provincial jail still standing in Western Canada. What we now know as the Remand Centre is still lacking an historical designation, and the author wrote Forgotten history : the untold stories of Manitoba’s first provincial jail 1881-1930 in the hope of inspiring interest in preserving Winnipeg’s heritage buildings through focusing on the lives of the (in)famous and not-so-famous people incarcerated in what was originally known as the “Eastern Judicial District Gaol.” We read about the general conditions of imprisonment at the time (inmates topped their usual diet with vegetables they helped grow). Some of the inmates were hardly more than children, some were rebels and strike leaders (including future Mayor of Winnipeg John Queen) and some were hardened criminals. Treusch also talks about the staff who served there in the prison’s early years, members of the judiciary and police forces involved in the justice system of the day, and activists who helped to reform it.
Image result for Rusalka : the legend and the legacy : the history of the renowned Ukrainian Dance Ensemble
Rusalka : the legend and the legacy : the history of the renowned Ukrainian Dance Ensemble is a commemorative book celebrating one of Canada’s most renowned Ukrainian dance ensembles through personal anecdotes, recollections of important milestones and trips within Canada and around the world. From their beginnings in 1962 under the directorship of Peter Hladun, the Rusalka Ukrainian Dance Ensemble brought together a group of promising young dancers and made them the most famous Ukrainian dance ensemble in Canada.
Stop by the Local History Room and browse through them!

50 Years Ago: Landing on the Moon

It was only one step, but what a step.  50 years ago, on July 20th 1969, the moon landing was seen live by 20 percent of humanity, making the event truly global in scope.  Born of Cold War rivalry between two superpowers, the space race mobilized the scientific and technological resources of the time and helped transform the way we saw humanity’s place in the universe and continues to inspire new generations to aim for the stars.  The Winnipeg Library has a large and fascinating collection about space exploration and the moon landings for you to explore.

Cover image for One Giant Leap : The Untold Story of How We Flew to the Moon.

Of course, the Apollo 11 flight did not happen overnight and it is easy to forget how much efforts, time and resources was needed to achieve the first moon landing, not to mention the countless attempts and failures to create the conditions to successfully fly men to the moon and return them safely to Earth.  The Russians were the first to send probes into space (the famous Sputnik satellite) in 1957, followed by the first man in space in 1961, with the United States struggling at first to catch up, before pledging to land a man on the moon before 1970.  As Charles Fishman mentions in the intro to his book One Giant Leap: The Untold Story of How We Flew to the Moon: “When Kennedy announced that goal, no one knew how to navigate to the Moon.  No one knew how to build a rocket big enough to reach the Moon, or how to build a computer small enough (and powerful enough) to fly a spaceship there.  No one knew what the surface of the Moon was like, or what astronauts could eat as they flew there. ”  Fishman’s book is a delight to read, providing a great overview of the American space program’s many achievements and reverses that led to Apollo 11 as well as how it changed the world we live in today.  The progress made with the Mercury and Gemini programs (which preceded the Apollo flights) and the pioneering work done by the Soviet space program and German scientist Werner Von Braun are also highlighted.

Cover image for Rocket men : the daring odyssey of Apollo 8 and the astronauts who made man's first journey to the moon

The names Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders may not be as well-known as that of Neil Armstrong or Buzz Aldrin, and yet they were the first human beings to leave earth’s orbit and make a round-trip to the moon.  As related in Rocket men : the daring odyssey of Apollo 8 and the astronauts who made man’s first journey to the moon by Robert Kurson, by August 1968, the American space program was in danger of failing in its two most important objectives: to land a man on the Moon by President Kennedy’s end-of-decade deadline, and to triumph over the Soviets in space.  The book tells of the gamble that NASA took in radically advancing its timetable to send its first rocket to the moon while using new and untested technology that would be used by Apollo 11 a few months later.  A new HBO documentary about the Apollo 8 mission, Apollo’s Daring Mission, is also available on DVD.

Cover image for First on the Moon : the Apollo 11 50th anniversary experience

For an excellent, up-to-date read about the event itself, Rod Pyle’s First on the Moon : the Apollo 11 50th anniversary experience is a strong recommendation, filled with firsthand accounts from the astronauts and their families and friends and written in an accessible style with gorgeous illustrations.  The Apollo 11 mission is told in exciting details, including the tense moments when Neil Armstrong had to make last-minute corrections to safely land the lunar module in the Sea of Tranquility.  This is not the first book that this author has written about space exploration and it shows in his exhaustive research and his inclusion of archival documents and newly-available pictures.

Cover image for Neil Armstrong : a life of flight

If you interested about learning more about the man himself, Neil Armstrong : a life of flight by Jay Barbree is the inside story of Neil Armstrong from the time he flew combat missions in the Korean War and then flew a rocket plane called the X-15 to the edge of space,  to when he saved his Gemini 8 by flying the first emergency return from Earth orbit and then flew Apollo 11 to the moon’s Sea of Tranquility.  Working from 50 years of conversations he had with Neil, from notes, interviews, NASA spaceflight transcripts, and remembrances of those Armstrong trusted, Barbree writes about Neil’s three passions: “flight, family, and friends”.

Cover image for Apollo's legacy : perspectives on the moon landings

You might be asking what does it matter that we landed on the moon after 50 years?  That is the question Roger Launius explores in Apollo’s Legacy: Perspectives on the Moon Landings.  Launius doesn’t shy from presenting opposite views about the legacy of a program that was attacked by both sides of the political aisle even at the time the missions were underway for being too expensive in both treasures and lives.  The success of the Apollo program, and the heroes it created, helped inspire a generation and solidified the United States at the cutting edge of scientific progress.  It also produced enduring conspiracy theories and even denials of the program’s existence.  Though the immense effort and mobilization necessary would not have been possible outside of the Cold War, the nations of Earth, including Canada, have since sent more people in space as well as more automated probes to explore the planets in and outside our solar system.

What about the next 50 years: what breakthroughs will humanity accomplish in space?  Will we reach Mars and beyond?


Remembering the Longest Day

Book cover
This coming 6th of June will mark the 75th anniversary of the Allied landings in Normandy in 1944. Though originally a generic military term, this is now the date universally known as “D-Day.” It will be observed throughout the world because of how it helped save the world from fascist dictatorship, and helped shape the world we live in today. The Allied operation, code-named Overlord, saw 160,000 soldiers cross the English Channel and begin the hard fight to liberate Europe from Nazi occupation.  Of these, 14,000 were Canadians who landed on Juno Beach, including two Manitoban units: The Royal Winnipeg Rifles Regiment (amongst the first Allied units to land) and the Fort Garry Horse. The 402 City of Winnipeg Squadron provided air cover.

There are quite a few books and films about the battle of Normandy available at Winnipeg Public Library, but here are a few recommendations.  

D-Day Minute by Minute by Jonathan Mayo is narrated with a fresh approach, like a radio broadcast, describing events minute by minute as if they were happening in real time, and motivates the reader to keep going. The book is full of first-hand eye witness accounts, both civilian and military, who lived through the day.  

Soldier, Sailor, Frogman, Spy, Airman, Gangster, Kill or Die : How the Allies won on D-Day by Giles Milton has a similar narrative that uses the stories of survivors from both sides but is a denser read than Mayo’s book. It alternates between the large strategic picture as seen in war rooms and individual one of those who fought or simply lived through the event.

Did you know? The beach where Canadians were to land was almost codenamed Jelly (as in Jellyfish, Goldfish and Swordfish). Canadian Wing Commander Dawnay then made a counter-proposal: Juno, his wife’s first name, which was deemed more appropriate.

For those of you interested in Canadian military history and who like delving in detailed description of military tactics and strategy, Terry Copp’s Fields of Fire: The Canadians in Normandy is an excellent read. This thoroughly researched book gives the role of Canadians in the Normandy campaign a long overdue recognition, challenging past assessments from historians. The initial landings were the beginning two months of intense and brutal battle with Canadian soldiers fighting a skilled and well-armed enemy that little pause or quarter. Despite this, Allied troops fought with tenacity, and growing skill and power until they managed to break out of Normandy and chased the Nazi armies out of France by the end of August. Copp is also the author of The Canadian Battlefields of Normandy: A visitor’s guide, essential reading for any Canadian who is contemplating a trip to France or wants a virtual trip thanks to its great colour photography and maps.

In addition to books, there are many films, both fictional and documentary that are available for watching, but usually not from a Canadian perspective. Storming Juno is a docudrama effectively mixing Canadian veterans’ accounts of their experiences in interviews with re-enactment scenes depicting the true stories of paratroopers, tank crews and regular soldiers who took part in the invasion. Though most of us have seen films like the Longest Day and Saving Private Ryan, this is a worthy addition to the list since this the only one ever made about the Canadian experience that wasn’t a straight documentary.

Did you know? James Doohan, who would later become a famous actor as Chief Engineer Scotty in the original Star Trek series, landed on Juno Beach along with the 14th Field Artillery Regiment and was severely wounded, losing a finger on his right hand while leading his 30 men to safety across the beach.

It’s important to remember that the Normandy Landings were the results of years of planning, building of war materials (including two artificial harbours!), intelligence gathering, and finally a complex campaign of deception as to when and where D-Day would occur. The final victory would not have been possible without these elements, and the men and women who were involved. Double Cross: The true story of the D-day spies by Ben Macintyre takes us in the shadow war that occurred before D-Day: complex deceptions, like Operation Fortitude, which protected and enabled the invasion thanks to fictional armies made rubber, canvas and bogus radio chatter, and the Double Cross system, which specialized in turning German spies into double agents. These double agents then deceived the Nazis into believing that the Allies would attack at Calais and Norway rather than Normandy.

Did you know? To deceive the Germans as to the location and timing of the invasion, a Lieutenant from Royal Army Pay Corps with an uncanny resemblance to British General Bernard Montgomery was paraded in Cairo for weeks before the invasion. At Montgomery’s insistence, he was paid the full salary of a general during the ruse.

It is estimated that less than 3% of veterans of the Second World War are still alive to tell their stories. The upcoming anniversary may well be one of the last where they will be present, making sure that the memory of their sacrifices for our freedoms be remembered that much more important.  

– Louis-Philippe

What’s New in the Local History Room

Winnipeg Riot [Portage Avenue]

“Winnipeg Riot” postcard from the PastForward database

We are marking the centennary of one of the most significant events in our city’s history this year: the Winnipeg General Strike, which began on May 15, 1919, and lasted for over a month, helping to shape labour history throughout Canada for decades after.

The Winnipeg Public Library will be hosting a series of lectures at the Millennium branch, beginning on Wednesday March 20th, from noon to 1:00 PM, and continuing on for the next four Wednesdays.  For more details you can consult our newsletter – follow this link to our program calendar.

Also, come have a look at some of our new reads in the Local History Room:

Local author Gordon Goldsborough has recently released a sequel to his previous excellent book about our province’s hidden history, entitled More abandoned Manitoba : Rivers, Rails and Ruins.  The book is richly illustrated (thanks in part to clever drone photography), exploring abandoned sites around Manitoba, describing their features, what caused them to be abandoned, and their link to the larger history of Manitoba.

Cover image for Wisdom from the homeless : lessons a doctor learned at a homeless shelter

Wisdom from the homeless : Lessons a Doctor Learned at a Homeless Shelter  is both a timely wake-up call and inspiring read.  The stories in it’s pages are from people who attend Winnipeg’s Siloam Mission,  the homeless men and women as well as those who help take care of them.  It “is about the wisdom that people with nothing can teach all of us in affluent North American culture”.  Dr Neil Craton writes about his experiences as a physician in Siloam Mission’s medical clinic, treating all kinds of wounds, but also learning lessons in kindness and respect from his patients as fellow human beings persevering through pain and difficulties with joy and compassion.  His stories also include the experiences of other volunteers and staff working in the shelter and how it changed their lives and their faith.  The book is easy to read and benefits from great photography.

Cover image for Prairie fairies : a history of queer communities and people in western Canada, 1930-1985

Bringing to the forefront the previously marginalised history of the LGBTTQ community of the Western province was the aim of history professor and author Valerie Korineck in her new book Prairie Fairies : A History of Queer Communities and People in Western Canada, 1930-1985.  It focuses on five Prairie cities: Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Regina, Edmonton, and Calgary, exploring the regional experiences and activism of queer men and women through oral and archival histories.  In the first part of the book, spanning from 1930 to 1970, we learn about the public hangouts (restaurants, clubs, etc.) where queer people could assemble prior to creation of an organized movement  The second part is about the role played by different activists and other community actors in the 1970’s and onward that helped create spaces for gay and lesbian individuals dedicated to their communities and transforming the local social and political landscape.  Though this is a hefty academic title, it is filled with personal anecdotes and stories that makes it quite accessible to the more casual reader.

Gimli Harbour & Fishery : An IIlustrated History by Andrew Blicq explores the rich stories of the men and women who, over the last 140 years, have ventured out onto Lake Winnipeg in search of a living and a future.  We see a way of life that grew fishery through archival documents and photos, seeing the evolution of the boats, the various industries and businesses that helped keep Gimli prosper, and the stories of the families for whom fishing was an arduous yet rewarding calling.

Image result for north east winnipeg historical society volume 2

Finally, we have just received the second volume of the community history North East Winnipeg Area History : Elmwood, East Kildonan, North Kildonan  which offers a look back on some of the earliest inhabitants of one the oldest neighborhoods in the City of Winnipeg.  In addition to providing detailed histories of local pioneering families (some going back as far as the early 19th century), this volume describes the early road system in Winnipeg and methods of transportation such as the Kildonan Ferry.  Of particular note is the section devoted to Glen Hamilton and his home which eventually became famous for its séances, where attempts were made to communicate with the spirits of deceased loved ones, some famously photographed.

Come and check it out!


30 Years Ago: The Fall of the Berlin Wall

“Today I walk from my place up Brunnenstrasse, past Frau Paul’s tunnel to Bernauer Strasse where the Wall was. There is a new museum here. Its greatest exhibit is opposite: a full-size reconstructed section of the Wall, complete with freshly built and neatly raked death strip, for tourists.”       –Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall

Cover image for The year that changed the world : the untold story behind the fall of the Berlin Wall

We are going to mark several anniversaries of important historical events in 2019, one of them being the fall of the Berlin Wall and the beginning of the end of the Cold War – 30 years ago already!  And the library has a lot to offer fans of history on this topic.

For over 50 years, Germany, which was divided between the victors of WWII, was a symbolic battleground where two ideologies and their competing East/West alliances faced-off.  This era that became known as the Cold War was marked by varying periods of tensions and detente between the two blocs of nations.  The city of Berlin, an already divided city in a divided nation witnessed the erection in 1961 of a wall protected by mines, barbed wire and watch towers, supposedly to protect East Berliners from the evil of the capitalist West (the wall’s official name in the Soviet sphere was the  “Antifascist Bulwark”) but was really there to keep them in.


Cover image for The Berlin Airlift : the relief operation that defined the Cold War

70 years before the wall, Berlin was already a flashpoint of the Cold War that pitted former wartime allies over the fate of a still-ruined German capital.  In 1948, Stalin ordered the closing of all land access points to the city, leaving West Berliners potentially isolated in East Germany without food or fuel.  The Russian dictator hoped that the Western nations would lack resolve and accept the loss of the blockaded city to the Communists in order to avoid another shooting war so soon after the last global conflict.  Instead, the United States and its allies (including Canada) chose to keep West Berlin supplied through a massive airlift operation where transport plane flew around the clock, defeating the blockade while avoiding a shooting war.  The blockade was lifted after 11 months and over 200,000 sorties by allied planes ferrying 2,300,000 tons of food and fuel, but this first triumph of the West set the tone for what would become a new type of conflict that would define the lives of most nations of the world for decades to come.  Barry Turner’s The Berlin Airlift is an excellent book for readers interested in learning about the day-to-day experience of Berliners as well as those who took part in the airlift operations to preserve their freedom, often at the risk of their lives.


Cover image for Berlin 1961 : Kennedy, Khrushchev, and the most dangerous place on earth  Cover image for Bridge of spies [DVD videorecording]

The brinkmanship that characterised the Cold War came to its most dangerous point in the early 1960’s, with the risk of a nuclear war and the end of humankind becoming a real possibility.  It was in this context that the Berlin Wall was built, taking most everyone by surprise.  In Berlin 1961Frederick Kempe explains how a series of diplomatic blunders and misunderstandings across the globe came to a head when the armies of both super powers became fully mobilised in Berlin.  Up until then, travel between East and West Berlin was still possible even if closely monitored by the state.  This led to 3.5 millions East Germans defecting to the West between 1946 and 1961, leading Eastern leaders to find a way to stop this exodus by effectively closing its border.  Construction of the 156-kilometer wall began on August 13th and would be reinforced and improved over the coming years.  Attempting to cross it without official permission became a crime punishable by prison or death, with up to 200 people killed while trying to escape and 5,000 managing to reach West Berlin out of 100,000 attempts.  The recent movie Bridge of Spies, featuring Tom Hanks takes place in part during that period and portrays the real-life efforts of an American lawyer trying to secure an exchange of prisoners at the height of the crisis.


Cover image for Forty autumns : a family's story of courage and survival on both sides of the Berlin Wall

One woman who did manage to escape East Germany was Nina Willner, and her memoir Forty Autumns is an intimate portrait of how one person had to choose between her freedom and the loved ones she had to leave behind.  Nina takes us deep into the terrifying world of East Germany under Communist rule, revealing both the cruel reality her relatives endured and her own experiences after becoming an intelligence officer, running secret operations behind the Berlin Wall that put her life at risk.  We also learn of the aftermath, when both sides of her family had a chance to meet each other when the wall fell.


Cover image for Stasiland : stories from behind the Berlin Wall

Probably the most terrifying aspect of life in East Germany was its all-powerful and ever-present surveillance apparatus in the form of the Stasi (with 1 out of 6 East Germans being either informants or agents, it surpassed even the KGB and the Gestapo in its pervasiveness in the lives of East Germans).  In Stasiland : stories from behind the Berlin Wall, Ana Funder collected the testimonies of former East Germans, even some former members of the Stasi, to get a sense of everyday life in a totalitarian society where everybody lied and risked being betrayed, even by the people they knew.  Stories include those who tried to escape and were jailed and then pressured to spy on others in exchange for their release, a rock star who experienced being made an “un-person” to be erased, and then those who were still unrepentant about their role in propping up the regime they served through.  This is an important but difficult read but it also has hope and humour as people have had time to rebuild and reflect after German reunification.


Cover image for The collapse : the accidental opening of the Berlin Wall

I used to think I had a good idea of how the Wall fell but historian Mary Sarotte’s The Collapse: the Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall made me realize how much I had missed from previous readings.   The forces that ultimately brought the Berlin Wall down had been at work for some time, but the announcement that the border between East and West would open on November 9th, 1989, took the world (least of all East Germans) by surprise.  That was in part because it was the work of East-European politicians working behind the scenes, combined with a growing popular peaceful protest movement against a stagnant and stifling dictatorship.  But according to the author, the tipping point was a series of miscommunications that culminated in a small error by an East German official during a press conference about new travel regulations that accidently led to the floodgates opening literally overnight and heralded the end of East Germany a few months later.  Sarotte’s account is well-researched and is a suspenseful read that I recommend for anyone wanting to learn the fascinating history of the millions of ordinary citizens whose actions were instrumental in bringing this about.


Cover image for Berlin now : the city after the Wall

It is fitting that the last book of this post should discuss the revival that Berlin has experienced since the fall of the wall in 1989 and how it has changed.  Berlin Now: the City after the Wall by Peter Schneider offers a tour of the reunited city and how it has changed since while describing the insidious legacies of division and re-unification that remain, like the lingering suspicion instilled by the East German secret police to the clashing attitudes toward work, food, and love held by former East and West Berliners.  It explores a city still in flux, with hodgepodge architectures from different worlds, construction cranes everywhere, and animated by a vital art and clubbing scene and rich in diversity of its inhabitants, new and old.

Come and check out these great reads!



What’s new in the Local History Room?

With the coming of Winter it’s time to have a look at the new arrivals in the Local History Room collection.

Cover image for Rooster Town : the history of an urban Métis community, 1901-1961

A long-anticipated arrival is Rooster Town: The History of an Urban Métis Community, 1901-1961 by Evelyn Peters which is the product of years of exhaustive research into a part of Winnipeg’s history that has re-surfaced after decades of obscurity, thanks to her work.  Rooster Town, which grew on the outskirts of southwest Winnipeg from 1901 to 1961, was one of many Métis communities in Manitoba on the edges of urban areas, and probably the most famous of them all with 59 recorded households at its peak in 1949. Those years in Winnipeg were characterized by the twin pressures of depression and inflation, chronic housing shortages, and a spotty social support network.  Rooster Town grew without city services as rural Métis arrived to participate in the urban economy and build their own houses while keeping Métis culture and community as a central part of their lives.

Cover image for Stolen city : racial capitalism and the making of Winnipeg

Stolen City: Racial Capitalism and the Making of Winnipeg by geographer Owen Toews is a widely-acclaimed new arrival that critiques what he identifies as the emergence of a ruling alliance that has installed successive development visions to guarantee its hold on regional wealth and power.  Through a combination of historical and contemporary analysis, Toews argues how settler colonialism, as a mode of racial capitalism, has made and remade Winnipeg and the Canadian Prairie West over the past one hundred and fifty years. The author gives particular attention to “an ascendant post-industrial vision for Winnipeg’s city centre that has renewed colonial ‘legacies’ of dispossession and racism over the past forty years.”


Cover of Memories of the Moonlight Special and Grand Beach Train Era

In the first half of the 20th Century, the Canadian Northern Railway, later CN, established a train service to the east shores of Lake Winnipeg called The Victoria Beach Sub Division. This rail line opened up cottage country and changed people’s lives forever. Author Barbara Lange offers to take us through a time capsule with Memories of the Moonlight Special and Grand Beach Train EraSixty years after train service to the east shores of Lake Winnipeg ceased, a writer embarked on a journey of discovery. “People remember the boardwalk, concessions, the Moonlight Inn, picnics, the carousel, the dancing pavilion, Daddy Trains, beach romances, Hot Lips ginger beer, bands, Morse code, ice boxes, honey pot toilets, red boards, the Wye, fishflies, bittersweet vine, the Snowshoe Special, and a bygone era when passengers felt part of one big family.”

Cover image for Settlers of the marsh

Settlers of the Marsh by Frederick Philip Grove is actually an old read: first published in 1925 after much resistance, and welcomed with much condemnation from critics, it has gradually become recognised as one of the greatest novel about the experiences of immigrants settling in the Prairies. The story centers on recent Swedish immigrants to Canada, based partly on the author’s own personal experience, taking place in northern Manitoba where settlers like protagonist Niels Lindstedt were hoping to start their own homestead despite inhospitable climate and the arduous work it required. Niels’ attempts to come to terms with his new land and community, and the toll that these attempts take on him are further complicated by his relationships with two very different women. His dreams of domestic happiness married to his neighbour’s daughter, Ellen, being dashed after she rejects him, Niels is seduced by a local widow, Clara, with devastating consequences for all three.

  • Louis-Philippe

Remembering Canada’s Hundred Days and the End of the First World War

Cover image for The greatest victory : Canada's one hundred days, 1918A hundred years ago, the First World War was coming to an end, after four years of carnage never witnessed before in history. The year 1918 had begun with the Allied armies (also known as the Entente Powers) still locked in stalemate with Germany on the western front with no clear end in sight. Then in the spring, the German army launched its final offensive and although it succeeded in pushing back the British army, it failed to create a decisive breakthrough. This was followed in August by a general counter-attack (now known as the Hundred Days Offensive) by the Allies that would finally break the deadlock of the trenches and force Germany and the rest of the Central Powers to sue for peace by November. The four divisions of the Canadian Corps played a central role in breaking the back of the German army in a series of victorious battles that ended in the French city of Mons on November 11, 1918. The prestige earned on the battlefield helped create a new sense of national identity and Canada had separate representation at the peace conference at Versailles, moving away from its former colonial status toward independence from Great Britain.

Despite involving more men (and more casualties) than the Normandy Campaign of 1944, and despite being the pivotal battle of the First World War, the Hundred Days Offensive has been largely forgotten until recently with the centennial of the First World War bringing renewed interest in its history. For readers who are not familiar with this topic but are interested in learning more, historian Jack Granatstein’s book The Greatest Victory: Canada’s Hundred Days, 1918 is a recommended introduction that is accessible to everyone. It chronicles the march and bloody struggles of the Canadian Corp out of the trenches from Amiens through Valenciennes, the Hindenburg Line, the Canal du Nord, and Cambrai, toward Mons and final victory. Granatstein describes the historical context of the offensive, how Canadians trained constantly beforehand in the use of new tactics and weapons, and were led by General Arthur Currie, likely the best General of the War. Despite being overshadowed by the Battle of Vimy Ridge in the minds of most Canadians, the author convincingly argues that the Hundred Day’s Offensive was Canada’s greatest feat of arms of the First World War.

Cover image for They Fought in Colour / la Guerre en Couleur : A New Look at Canada's First World War Effort / Nouveau Regard Sur le Canada Dans la Premi?re Guerre Mondiale.

Remembering the First World War can be challenging due to the memory of it having faded over the decades, and having been overshadowed by the second global conflict that followed its uneasy peace. Since we no longer have living veterans to relate their stories, our vision of the First World War exist almost exclusively in black and white, whether they be written books or historical footage. The book They Fought in Colourpublished by the Vimy Foundation, attempts to offer a new look at Canada’s experience during the Great War by presenting the reader with colorized pictures, as the people experienced it, with commentary from some of well-known Canadian personalities, including Paul Gross, Peter Mansbridge, Margaret Atwood, and many others.

Cover image for The secret history of soldiers : how Canadians survived the Great War

Historian Tim Cook is a prolific author of Canadian military history who has just released his latest title: The Secret History of Soldiers: How Canadians Survived the Great War This is a welcome addition, providing an intimate look at the daily lives of the men and women who experienced the conflict, as opposed to the more conventional reviews of the war from official records and the distant point of views of politicians and military leaders focused on strategies and tactics. These first-hand stories were mined from the letters, diaries, memoirs, and oral accounts of more than five hundred combatants. They reveal aspects of the life behind the front-lines, a “hidden society” that coped with the extreme hardships of war by creating their own satirical songs, trench art from battlefield debris, newspapers that criticized army life and all kinds of entertainment that took their mind off the war. You learn how camaraderie was built on shared experiences and goals, what motivated Canadians of all walks of life to keep going, and how they kept informed about the war and their families back home.

Cover image for 1918 : winning the war, losing the war

For readers who are interested in an in-depth study of the Western Front in the last year of the war, another new arrival at the library, 1918 : winning the war, losing the war is an informative review of the armies that were facing each other (the inexperienced but vast American army joining the battle-weary but experienced French and British forces against the German). This multi-author work contains ten chapters by some of the best historians of the First World War. It analyzes how armies built from a 19th century model evolved and adapted the lessons learned from past failures and used new technologies and weapons to fight a twentieth century war. The book also covers neglected fronts like Italy and the Middle East where the Austro-Hungarian and Turkish empires were fighting for their continuing survival. It also looks in detail at the war at sea and in the air, and considers the aftermath and legacy of the First World War.


Finally, if you come by the Local History Room at the Millennium branch, you can view a display called The World Remembers 1918 that the library is hosting to commemorate the centennial of the 1918 Armistice. Until November 11, a video monitor will display the names of over 800,000 soldiers who lost their lives in the final year of the war from Canada, United Kingdom, France, Germany, the US, Turkey, Belgium, Australia, the Czech Republic, Italy, New Zealand, Slovenia, China and the former British Indian Army. The World Remembers website has more information about this project and this is the page where names can be searched to learn when they will appear on-screen.


What’s New in the Local History Room?



Fall programming is now upon us and the Winnipeg Public Library wants to invite you to come and learn about an exciting new resource now freely available to all Manitobans.

Our World on the Manitoba Research Gateway provides access for everyone within Manitoba to unique collections of millions of pages of digitized historical content including newspapers, maps, photos, pamphlets, manuscripts and more.  The library will offer two information sessions this September so you can learn how to navigate its collections of historical newspapers and periodicals, and resources related to LGBTQ history, slavery and anti-slavery movements, and Indigenous peoples.  Come and learn all about it!

With the last days of summer it’s time to see what new titles have arrived in the Local History Room.

Cover image for Margaret Laurence and Jack McClelland, letters

Margaret Laurence and Jack McClelland, Lettersoffers an intimate look at the professional relationship between two pillars of Canadian literature. Margaret Lawrence was at the height of her literary fame and Jack McClelland was one of Canada’s most important publishers – both of whom helped shape modern Canadian literature through their work. Over three decades of written correspondence found in this book, we eventually see a deep friendship developing through their shared passion and commitment to Canadian writing.  It’s interesting to see their initial formal writing evolve, growing in warmth and familiarity over the years.

Cover image for Drought & depression

The effects of the Great Depression in Canada has remained an under-studied aspect of Canadian history until recently, but we are now seeing renewed interest in it. Drought and Depression is the sixth volume of the excellent History of the Prairies Series and contains articles on a broad range of topics related to the “Dirty Thirties” in the prairie provinces. On the back cover of the book, one can read that “between 1929 and 1932, per capita incomes fell by 49% in Manitoba, 61% in Alberta and an astounding 72% in Saskatchewan. The result was enormous social and political upheaval that sent shockwaves through the rest of the country.” Familiar subjects like unemployment, ecology, strikes, and the new forces that arose in Canadian politics because of the Great Depression are covered, along with lesser known ones like soldier settlements for unemployed veterans, and the prairie novel.

Cover image for Threads in the sash : the story of the Métis people

In Threads in the Sash: The Story of the Métis People, historian Fred Shore draws on years of research and explores the history, culture and political development of Canadian Métis from the days of the fur trade to the present. The book is written in a approachable style and tackles questions such as: Where did the term Métis come from? Why are the Métis recognized as Indigenous people? How much of Manitoba did the Métis build? If you have ever wanted to know who the Métis are, this book is highly recommended.

Cover image for Farm boy to fly boy

This next title is a treat for fans of flying and Cold War history from the experience of a local man. Retired RCAF Colonel Gordon Brennand recently published his memoir Farm Boy to Fly Boy. It tells the story of his childhood in rural Manitoba during the Great Depression, his enlistment in the air force to become an accomplished jet fighter pilot in the decades following WWII, and his years being a base commander in Portage La Prairie.

Cover image for A fist around the heart

On the fictional side, we have received A Fist around the Heart by Heather Chisvin, a story of love and trauma between two sisters, Anna and Esther Grieve, that begins with them being sent to Winnipeg to escape the persecutions of Jews in Russia in the late 19th century. While Anna moves to New York and starts a new life for herself, Esther remains behind, slowly succumbing to mental illness despite living among the city’s wealthy. When Anna receives the unexpected news of Esther’s possible suicide on “If Day”, an unusual day in 1942 when a simulated Nazi attack took place in Winnipeg in order to raise funds for the war effort, she must return and find answers to what exactly happened to her sister.



Discover the Library’s IdeaMILL !

After years of anticipation, the makerspace of the Winnipeg Public Library, named the IdeaMILL, is now finally open!  The ideaMILL makerspace, located on the 3rd floor of the Millennium Library, offers community access to new and emerging technologies in a collaborative space.

Makerspaces in libraries allow members of the library’s community to gain access to tools, software and mentorship that can help take creative ideas and turn them into real products or prototypes.

You may not know how to use some of the tools and equipment available, but there are plenty of books that will help you familiarize yourself with them and get you started on your own maker projects.

Cover image for The big book of makerspace projects : inspiring makers to experiment, create, and learn   Cover image for 63 ready-to-use maker projects

Makerspace projects books

These titles are all about inspiring readers to experiment with a wide variety of projects and are ideal for anyone wanting to familiarize themselves with the concept of the makerspace and its possibilities.

Cover image for Getting started with 3D printing : a hands-on guide to the hardware, software, and services behind the new manufacturing revolution   Cover image for Make: 3D printing projects

3-Dimensional Printing

A popular feature of the IdeaMILL is the ability to crate objects – from the most basic memento to complex models – using 3-D printing technology.  These books will introduce the technology and steps required to make your own objects, and offer 3-d printing projects for both beginners and experts, with step-by-step instructions.

Cover image for Digital photography : an introduction    Image result for The green screen makerspace project book todd

Digital Photography  and Video Recording

Using a digital camera and the green screen available in the space, customers can create their own photography or movie projects, complete with sophisticated effects.  These guides will offer project ideas with detailed instructions.


Cover image for Makerspace sound and music projects for all ages  Cover image for The singer-songwriter's guide to recording in the home studio

Sound Recording

The IdeaMILL is equipped with two bookable sound recording booths, allowing anyone to record and edit their own songs using high-quality equipment.  The library has books to teach you how to effectively use sound recording and learn the steps of the recording and editing process.

Cover image for Knitting with beads made easy : simple techniques, handy shortcuts, and 60 fabulous projects  Cover image for Home robotics : maker-inspired projects for building your own robots


For those who need a space reserved for working on their crafting projects, a crafting area with sewing machines, button makers and more are available in the IdeaMILL.  If you need ideas for a knitting project, we have a large selection of books on all types of crafts from knitting, sewing and even robot-making.

Come and check it out, the ideaMILL is open to customers of all ages, and is accessible during Millennium Library’s standard opening hours.



What to Watch on Kanopy?

The Winnipeg Public Library recently started offering access to a new streaming service for films and documentaries, so I decided to check out this new resource.  In addition to documentaries, Kanopy offers a wide selection of international as well as Hollywood movies.

Here are some of my favourite titles so far:

The King’s Choice is a Norwegian film based on the incredible-but-true events surrounding the period of April 9-11, 1940.  When Nazi forces invaded Norway, King Haakon VII was faced with an ultimatum: accede to the demand to surrender his country without resistance, or support the continued resistance of his government and escape the country into exile.  For two days, the king and his family were pursued by the invading German army through the Norwegian countryside. They shared the fear and uncertainty of their countrymen as their towns and cities experienced a new kind of war and then four years of occupation.

In Manchester By The Sea a depressed man, Lee Chandler, must face his painful past when he reluctantly returns to his Massachusetts hometown after the sudden death of his brother.  Upon arrival, he finds that he has been made sole guardian to his teenage nephew. This is a realistic look at the personal cost of guilt with very flawed characters who are struggling with addictions and crushing grief, and yet they must find a way to carry on with the daily tasks and responsibilities of life.


In Brooklyn, a young Irish woman immigrates to Brooklyn in the 1950’s in the hopes of finding new opportunities. Lured by the promise of America, Eilis departs Ireland for the shores of New York City and is soon swept up by the intoxicating charms of new love. When family circumstances back home require her to return unexpectedly, she is faced with deciding between two countries – her home and family in the old world and the life she built with the man she loves waiting for her in the new.  Besides the great acting by Saoirse Ronan, the period reconstitution is also excellent, and the story reflects the journey that so many have done and continue to do so today.

Le Samourai is a mix of “1940s American gangster cinema and 1960s French pop culture.”  Alain Delon (one of France’s top actors of all time) plays a contract killer with samurai instincts in 1960’s Paris.  If you have watched and loved The Professional or Ghost Dog, you can now see the movie that undoubtedly inspired both.  John Costello is a contract killer that works according to his own personal code, surviving against both law enforcement and the criminal world by being a loner.  What happens when you are forced to let someone into your life – will it save or destroy you?

I had heard of the Italian movie classic The Bicycle Thieves many times before, but thanks to Kanopy, this was my chance to finally see it.  In postwar Rome, a man is on his first day of a new job that offers hope of salvation and escape from poverty for his desperate family.  Putting posters on walls may be a modest job, so when the bicycle which is needed for his work is stolen, he sets off to track down the thief with his son in tow.  An increasingly desperate quest to save their future.

Another classic from the silent cinema era is Fritz Lang’s Metropolis,  now available fully restored and with the original orchestral score.  The film takes place in 2026, when the populace is divided between workers who must live in the dark underground while slaving away maintaining nightmarish machinery, and the rich who enjoy a futuristic city of splendor.  Will the love of two people from those separate worlds be enough to bridge the divide?  This was the first time that a humanoid robot was featured on film, and it’s visuals would inspire science-fiction work up to this day.
What about you, what would you recommend?