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Category Archives: Collections & Research

A blog about a (yule) log: Plants of Christmas

The use of plants during Christmas arose from pagan Yuletide celebrations of the winter solstice in ancient times. The pagan beliefs have become interwoven and associated with the Christian festival of Christmas, which occurs during the same season. Those plants which remained green, flowered or bore fruit in the darkest season of the year were felt to have special powers. These powers could be invoked by appropriate ceremonies and could…

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‘I don’t know what you mean by “glory”,’ Alice said. Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. ‘Of course you don’t — till I tell you. I meant “there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!”‘ ‘But “glory” doesn’t mean “a nice knock-down argument”,’ Alice objected. ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’ ‘The…

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Take me away: gettin’ around when you’re stuck in the ground

One of the problems with being a plant is that you can’t move away if the habitat you are growing in becomes unsuitable. Plants have thus developed a life stage that is capable of moving: fruits and seeds. Some plants use wind to distribute their seeds. Root parasites like louseworts (Pedicularis), produce thousands of seeds that are so small the wind can blow them around for miles. The seeds of…

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The Old Museum Lives On

  Winnipeg has a long and complicated history of museums featuring natural history collections. Our current museum was a centennial project, opened in 1970, but we are very fortunate that we possess vestiges of those earlier museums, such as minerals from the Carnegie Library collection and mounted animals from some of the early taxidermists. The most visible and best-documented of these “inheritances” are pieces that were exhibited in the old…

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Marvellous Molluscs

This has been a year rich in exhibit work, and we are finishing off with a bit of a bang. About a week ago we finished installation of our latest Discovery Room exhibit, a collaboration between Zoology and Paleontology entitled The World is Their Oyster: Marvellous Molluscs. As with the other D-Room exhibits we have produced (such as Jaws and Teeth and Colours in Nature), this was a collaborative effort. It…

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The Mineral Exhibit

 If you visit this page occasionally and have been wondering about when the next blog post would be forthcoming, well, I had been wondering that too. I have begun new posts several times, but in each instance my focus has been pulled away by the same all-consuming activity: my time has been taken up by the completion of a mineral exhibit. This past week, we finally did the installation, so…

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Replicating rex

The Manitoba Museum is home to many unusual and unique specimens. Among the most remarkable is the world’s largest complete trilobite, the holotype specimen of the species Isotelus rex. Over the years we have occasionally received requests from other museums for replicas of this striking fossil. More than a decade ago, before the specimen ever went on exhibit, we had a mould prepared by an outside contractor who also made…

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Congratulations to Ed!

Ed Dobrzanski is a “fixture” at the Museum.  He had been a volunteer here before I started back in in 1993, and he has volunteered continuously for the past 20 years. Ed has done tremendous work as an amateur paleontologist, collecting, preparing, studying, identifying, and cataloguing fossils. He has contributed to paleontological field and laboratory work in a great variety of ways. For his all-round efforts, many of us are…

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Display of Detritus and Delight

The spaces that house Museum curators and collections are, perhaps, notorious for appearing to be crammed full of objects. Our work consists of collecting and organizing, and actively-collecting Museum scientists typically have many specimens spread out for study and cataloguing. Our collections rooms contain many thousands of well-organized specimens, but it is tricky to find space for the largest pieces. For this reason, some of our biggest specimens are not…

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Musing About Macoun

Today I got to study a plant specimen that had been collected 100 years before I was born in 1872 by one of the most famous Canadian botanists, Dr. John Macoun.  Dr. Macoun accompanied the engineer Sanford Fleming to look for a railroad route through the Canadian west and determine the area’s agricultural potential.  Macoun collected thousands of plant and animal specimens on his journeys, which involved travelling either by…

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