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Celebrating Canada’s first 150 years does not usually involve thinking about the environment or biodiversity, and certainly Confederation is a human history event. But human actions have an impact on our environment and the creation of Canada was no exception. Our latest exhibit, Legacies of Confederation: A New Look at Manitoba History, offers an opportunity to explore those impacts, those legacies, from a natural history perspective. Given the massive changes to Manitoba’s environment since 1867 (and 1870 when we became Canada’s fifth province), it is easy to focus on the negative effects; indeed, grasslands and many of their component parts have become rare or have even disappeared. But becoming a...
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Although summer may feel like it’s a long time from now, it’s not too early to start planning for at least one summer blockbuster event. On Monday, August 21, 2017, the moon will pass in front of the sun, causing a solar eclipse which will be seen all across North America. For a narrow line which runs across the central United States, the eclipse will be total: the moon will completely cover the bright part of the sun, providing a couple of minutes of the most amazing sight nature has to offer on this planet. For the rest of the continent, the eclipse is partial: the moon covers up only a part...
Posted in Science Gallery & Planetarium | Comments closed

Mycorrhizal Mushrooms

Botany

Have you ever wondered why the only fresh mushrooms you can get in stores are button, cremini and portabello (all different varieties and stages of Agaricus bisporus)? Or why the fancy mushrooms, like morels (Morchella spp.) and chanterelles (Cantharellus spp.) are generally only available dried? And why are those dried mushrooms so expensive anyway? Can’t they just plant them in a field like wheat? To understand the answer to these questions, you need to know a few things about what mushrooms really are. A long time ago scientists classified all organisms as either “plants” or “animals” largely based on whether they had a means of locomotion. For this reason, mushrooms...
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When Manitoba became part of Canada in 1870 the stage was set for one of the largest land transformations in history. In the last 150 years nearly all of Manitoba’s wild prairies fell to the plough. The little patches that remain as ranch land, private nature preserves, and federal and provincial crown lands are home to a suite of increasingly rare organisms, among them two spectacular prairie orchids: Western Prairie Fringed Orchid (Platanthera praeclara) and Small White Lady’s-slipper (Cypripedium candidum).  Models of these two species are on display in the Manitoba Museums’ Legacies of Confederation: A New Look at Manitoba History exhibit. Found only in moist, tall grass prairies with calcium-rich or alkaline...
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2017 marks Canada’s 150th birthday, and to commemorate this anniversary all seven museum curators collaborated on the creation of an exhibit that really highlights what was happening here in Manitoba at the time of Confederation, and the effects of this political shift.  Our Legacies of Confederation: A New Look at Manitoba History opened last week, and runs throughout 2017 so you’ll have plenty of time to check it out. As with any exhibit, there is never enough space to tell all of the stories we want.  Instead, each curator will be blogging about an artifact or specimen in the exhibit, or perhaps things that didn’t make it into the exhibit....
Posted in HBC Collection | Comments closed
Medals that commemorate important events in a nation’s history fill every history museum collection around the planet. Collectors and antique traders adore medals, but let’s be honest: when they’re on display they don’t have the impact of a giant dinosaur skeleton. Medals are small. But that didn’t stop politicians and government officials from clamouring for shiny objects when Canadian Confederation was officially enacted in 1867. In our exhibit “Legacies of Confederation: A New Look at Manitoba History” we have on display not one, but two Confederation medals, minted in 1869, that commemorate the founding moment of the Dominion of Canada. The Confederation Medal is seemingly the first honour of Canada,...
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After Manitoba entered Confederation in 1870 and the Canadian government negotiated Treaty No. 1 with First Nations leaders, Canada began to actively engage potential immigrants to settle and farm the prairies. The first two groups that arrived in large numbers were English speaking Ontarians and German speaking Mennonites from eastern Ukraine. This first large wave of immigration to Manitoba would begin the irrevocable transformation of the environment and the economy of the province forever. The success of the Mennonites in particular may have helped open the door to other immigrants who did not speak English and had different religious backgrounds compared to the English Protestants and French Catholics who dominated...
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Tasting is something we do everyday but many of the things we think we know about taste are actually wrong. So let the debunking begin! Myth #1: You taste food with your tongue. Fact: Your sense of taste involves your tongue AND your nose. When you are sick with a cold, food doesn’t taste very good. This is not because your taste buds aren’t working-it is because your nose isn’t working. To test this, close your eyes, plug your nose and pop a flavoured candy in your mouth. Can you tell which flavour it is? Then unplug your nose and see if you know. What you are experiencing when you...
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Post by Cortney Pachet, Collections Registration Associate (Human History)   Twas the week before Christmas and all through the museum, Artifacts wondered if visitors would see ‘em. Some historical treasures sat smug on display, While other objects remained hidden away. These ornaments once hung on old Christmas trees, Some dating as far back as the 1920s! With the curator in his office and I snug in mine, I catalogued objects from way back in time. When deep in the vault, exploring I go, Finding boxes of Christmas lights from long, long ago. Quick to the shelf, with nitrile gloved paw, I admire the condition, in a reverent awe. The box...
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Post by Janis Klapecki, Collections Management Specialist (Natural History) [Note: This blog contains descriptions and images that may not be suitable for sensitive individuals.] In the Natural Sciences Department, we receive hundreds of specimens each year that will eventually be added to the permanent Scientific Collections. The Curators collect specimens through their many research projects, while other specimens are collected and donated by the general public. Most of these specimens require some very specific and time-consuming preparation before they can be in a state for which a researcher can use them. Fossils are exposed with precision tools, insects are painstakingly pinned, plants are pressed and artfully mounted, and mammal and...
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