Every community has a history and in many it is preserved in a museum. Deloraine is an exception to this — having once had a museum, this is no longer the case. Discussions about this topic prompted a public meeting to gauge public interest in establishing a museum.
There once was a Heritage group that tried in earnest to get something going along the lines of a permanent place to house items of historical value. One member of that group, Rick Schoonbaert, said they did a few projects — one being restoring some old coal mine cars and placing them in the park.
“This area has a rich history and we should be proud of it. In 1883 Newcomb’s Hollow was the centre of Southwestern Manitoba at that time. There are lots of stories about people making the trek to the land titles office at Newcomb’s Hollow. The next closest one was in Brandon. We (heritage group) did do a few things with the coal mine — all the information is documented but the physical site itself is disappearing. This would be especially important for people whose relatives worked in the mines.”
Other significant historical sites include Old Deloraine (bank vault), Newcomb’s Hollow (land titles office), Boundary Commission Trail (road ruts still visible) where the NWMP stayed on their way west, to name a few.
About 30 people attended the meeting on November 12, offering ideas and input — including a common sentiment that maybe this wouldn’t be ‘like’ many of the existing museums, and that it would be more current, different and perhaps interactive — and be a tourist attraction. A tour of the historical sites might be the major focus of the “museum” — perhaps still have a physical site to house some artifacts and information, but the main focus be on the sites themselves — offer a tour – either self-guided and/or guided by someone. The tour could also include established displays in the municipality, including: Doc Bonar Arena – Wall of Fame, Library display of former mayors, Citizens of the Year and so on.
Ken Storie, member of the Turtle Mountain-Souris Plains Heritage Association was in attendance. He said one of the focal points of the TM-SPHA was to make connections with other groups – to share — for example, the five Vantage Points books have a wealth of knowledge about the history of the area. One group can complement the other.
Storie strongly advised that this project ‘start small’. Find a core of people interested in following through with the groundwork and getting things done. Know what your focus is — what stories do you want to tell? It doesn’t need to be a traditional museum. Have a meeting and reach out for support and networking. It can’t be just about a museum – has to connect to the community. It is important to connect it to tourism.
Discussion followed regarding possible locations/hours, etc.
Location ideas tossed out included:
• Upper level of Prairie Skills Building — historic appeal of the space, it is primarily an unused space or many years, it is municipally-owned thus costs would be decreased, not as accessible, currently no electricity to the space
• Tourist Booth
• TD Bank – it is on Main Street and has good physical accessibility
• Former Bargain Shop – it is on Main Street and has good physical accessibility, it is also municipally-owned but has potential for retail space for another much-needed business venture
What about Hours? Seasonal?
• May to September was suggested – it is basically the tourist season, less need to heat the building (whatever space is chosen), possible availability of summer students
• Suggested hours 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. through the tourist season seven days a week. Initially the hours of operation will be dependent on volunteer participation.
The ideas are really endless. One interesting concept was that of “Progression through the decades of different items such as:
• Communication systems – From Switchboard> land line with dial phones>portable phones>car phone>cell phone
• Time pieces – Sundial> analogue clocks>digital clock
• Household items — iron heated on wood stove >electric iron and mangle>unit steamer> hand steamer units
•Education – Dick and Jane books on an old desk/blackboard >projectors and screen>computers and interactive screens
• Currency – from penny, change, $1, $1>loonie and toonie >bank cards.
Discussion could have gone on and on, but before going forward a steering committee was struck. This group will meet and advise what the next step is going to look like. Stay tuned.