There was an excellent attendance for the Turtle Mountain-Souris Plains Heritage Association (TM-SPHA) heritage assembly and AGM on March 22 in Deloraine. The theme for the day was “Moving Forward with Regional Partnerships”.
Board member David Neufeld gave words of welcome and introduced Ken Storie – TM-SPHA projects coordinator “It’s good to see such a good representation, especially from the area museums.
“Our main aim is to broaden how history is being taught. We explore stories and put maps together. History is in layers and we try to find deeper and deeper layers. Recently we have been studying the Truth and Reconciliation initiative. We have a good partnership with the Manitoba Metis Federation. Now we are working out the best way to approach the Dakota Nation, so we can tell their stories.”
Neufeld invited Ken Storie to deliver a project report. “We’re just wrapping up “Vantage Points No. 5 and we made a video – “Turtle Mountain Mud” about the coal mining in the Turtle Mountains. This story needed to be told and passed on. It is available on You Tube and on the TM-SPHA website. It is hoped this will be used as a teaching tool in schools.
Regional partnerships are an important component of TM-SPHA. To that end and a first step in the Local Heritage Partnerships Initiatives was a round table discussion — Perspectives from Museums in the Region. Representatives from six area museums gave a review about their respective museums.
Norm Reid – Waskada Museum:
“Waskada Museum basically represents pioneer life from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, focusing on lifestyle, the home, church, school Agriculture as well as military.”
• The museum is comprised of six buildings, two which are on original sites – bank and blacksmith shop.
• The coal shed was revamped – can still see how it operated
• Blacksmith shop is functional
• Added a vehicle building in the late 1990’s
• Have held Open House days in the museum to coincide with special events in Waskada – volunteers are dressed in period clothing and act as if it is ‘back in the day’ – much like a visit to Lower Fort Garry
Eric Forrester – Antler River Historical Society (Melita Museum)
Eric is a councillor with the Town of Melita.
The Melita Museum was a school from the years 1893 – 1972 and then converted into a museum by the Antler River Historical Society. The rooms are based on various themes — pictures, heritage, school, pioneer, antique tools, rock exhibit and so on. There is also a building outside of the museum known as the Fred Jensen Trophy Room. Fred was a big game hunter.
“One of our biggest challenges is the fieldstone foundation, which is showing signs of wear and tear. We have held several fundraisers such as hosting a High Tea event and Haunted Museum,” said Forrester.
Jack Vandusen – Hartney Museum
The building that houses the Hartney Museum was built in 1902. It is a two-storey brick structure. The bricks were fired locally. The building was used as a grocery store. “You can almost imagine the dray transporting the goods off the train (across street from railway) to the store,” said Vandusen. The museum basically represents the settlement of the area and features three collections — dolls (400), arrowheads and curling pins (19,000) from Keith Forbes.
Margie Robbins – Elgin Museum
The building housing the museum was the Bank of Commerce. Military memorabilia is highlighted in the museum – including letters and stories from a war-bride, training plan records, and a rare poster which tells the role of the Red Cross. As well there are excerpts from the Elgin newspaper, cemetery records, sports memorabilia, vintage shoes and clothing, wedding dresses, a working windmill, business records, school records, church records, Elevator books, Elgin Fair medals and a building featuring agriculture items and antique farm tools. “There is even a 1940 snow plane that still runs,” concluded Robbins.
Grant Voodre – Beckoning Hills Museum (Boissevain)
The museum has been in operation for 52 years and features hand-pulled fire truck, Armed Forces uniforms, salt and pepper collection, wedding dresses, to name a few. “Every time I go to the museum I see something new,” said Voodre.
Phyllis Hallett – Moncur Gallery (Boissevain)
The gallery is quite specialized with a collection of First Nation artifacts of the Dakota Sioux. 90% of the items are from Bill Moncur’s collection. “Our challenges include making connections with the First Nations and engaging kids when they visit the museum. One student made a simulation of an archeological dig – the kids love it – they can actually dig in it and find points. As well, there is an audio tour whereby visitors use headphones to find 9 points in the museum. Our claim to fame is a mammoth tusk which has been studied and found to be 33,000 years old. Another challenge is we are all volunteers, and as the Moncur Gallery is so specialized, we have to keep learning.” As far as finances, Hallett says the Boissevain/Morton Foundation has been very supportive. “We are also looking forward to school tours this year as we have hired a student who is knowledgeable in anthropology and archeology.”
What can TM-SPHA do to help the museums? “We do have a fairly extensive website so we made one page for each museum and linked it to the Vantage Point website,” said Storie.
There are other ways to capture the heritage and history of a town. Not every community has an actual museum but signs of heritage can still be found. For example, the Napinka Drop In Centre is an old school and one can find many old pictures of the community within its walls.
“In And in Deloraine vintage pictures of the town can be found in the entrance of The Rendezvous Restaurant.
“In Waskada, Melita, Hartney and Elgin, there was incentive to save old buildings and make them into museums. Every town has something a bit different and that sets each one apart,” said Storie. ‘There is a need to generate more and better stories that can be backed up with photos and artifacts. We have to do a better job of getting people into our museums.” A suggestion from the audience was to bring back the passbook which was an initiative of Westman Tourism a few years ago and was quite successful, sparking visits from people that normally didn’t go to museums.
Several years ago TM-SPHA organized some bus tours of the region – including burial mounds, buffalo jump remains in Souris River bank, buffalo rubbing rocks, pioneer cemeteries, Newcomb’s Hollow, Sourisford Park and much more. It was suggested these tours and others be resurrected. This then begged the questions: Who should organize the tours? What kind of things can we do to engage youth – needs to be hands-on, interactive – perhaps there can be tour guides in character of the era they are speaking about. “A cooperative among the museums would help,” said Storie.
From a historic/heritage perspective, a community is defined by three things – pivotal events, special places and notable people. The Heritage Grants Program has provided many grants and will continue to do so. “They are very interested in videos and will often provide a 50/50 funding formula, with an average of $5,000 per grant,” said Kris Doull from Manitoba Sport, Culture and Heritage.
The assembly continued with Regional Perspective and Partnership Opportunities – The Pierson Heritage Association, the International Peace Garden, the Turtle Mountain and West Souris Conservation Districts. See article elsewhere in this issue.