A Bump in the Collections Room

A Bump in the Collections Room

Picture this: You’re working alone in the collections room, inspecting the insect collection for evidence of pests, when you hear a noise coming from one of the cabinets behind you. The noise has a familiar skittering quality, similar to the dreaded sound of squirrels running around in your attic, followed by a loud thud. You think to yourself, “I looked in that cabinet just ten minutes ago, and I am very confident that there could not be a live squirrel in there.” You briefly (and humorously) consider that the cabinet could be haunted by the ghosts of the insects stored within, but that would be very silly as this is a collection of Natural History, not Supernatural History! With squirrels and ghost ruled out, you take a deep breath to steel yourself, and slowly open the cabinet door…

This is the situation in which I found myself at the beginning of April, and upon investigation I was able to determine the source of the sound. While a live rodent or a vengeful spirit would have been frightening, the real culprit was enough to make this Collection Technician’s blood run cold! The glass window in the lid of an insect drawer had peeled away from its adhesive (the skittering), followed by the pane of glass landing on the inner walls of the box below (the thud).

Square sheet of clear glass and broken wooden frame lying flat on a dark surface.

When I inspected the drawer in question just ten minutes earlier, I had removed the lid to take a close look at the specimens inside before putting the drawer back into the cabinet. It seems that even this small amount of movement was enough to set the ageing adhesive’s failure into motion. Thankfully, no insect specimens were harmed in this incident, but storage equipment failures like this can pose a major risk to museum collections. If the glass had fallen at an odd angle instead of landing flat on the inner walls of the box, or if the glass had shattered on impact, many specimens could have been damaged. At the Museum, we have hundreds of entomology drawers, most of which are several decades old. Unfortunately, the adhesive that was used in their original construction those many years ago has been found to fail over time. While replacing the drawers would be costly and time-consuming, they can be fixed so long as the glass pane and wooden lid are otherwise stable. At the moment, about two dozen drawers have been identified as having loose or detached glass, so it’s high time to get caught up on some repairs!

When people ask me what I do as a Collections Technician, I tell them that a lot of my work could be described as “crafty odd-jobs that keep our specimens safe and stable”, and this is a perfect example! Before starting any repairs, I consulted with our Senior Conservator about which kind of adhesive should be used to replace the original glue. In this case, we went with a non-acidic silicone-based caulk. Once set up with the tools and adhesive, my first step was to remove the remnants of the original glue from the lid and the window.

Image: With the glass removed from the lid, the old adhesive is exposed. © Manitoba Museum

The old glue came off the glass easily, needing nothing more than a firm rub with some damp paper towel, but the lids were more stubborn. For those, I used a utility knife to peel, pick, and pry at the glue until it was all gone. With the old glue out of the way, I cleaned both the glass pane and the lid with damp paper towels, and let both dry. Next, I applied a thin layer of caulk to the lid everywhere that it was supposed to make contact with the glass, and gently laid the window into its place. A bit of gentle pressure was applied to the other side of the glass to spread the adhesive around for complete and even contact between the wood, caulk, and glass. To finish the job, I wiped away the excess caulk leave everything clean and tidy.

Yellow utility knife lying on dark surface next to a wooden frame, surrounded by flakes of scraped-off dried adhesive.

Scraping the old adhesive away, bit by bit by bit. Image: © Manitoba Museum

Close up of a corner of the wooden frame, showing a clean patch of wood where adhesive has been scraped awway.

An in-progress photo, with one side untouched and the other scraped down to the wood. Image: © Manitoba Museum

The repaired lid, glass having been reinserted into the wooden frame and sealed with grey caulking.

A completed lid! The old beige adhesive has been replaced with grey silicone caulk, and the glass is bonded to the wood of the lid. Image: © Manitoba Museum

The repaired lid on a specimen drawer, enclosing multiple taxidermied yellow butterflies.

Repairing a batch of just five lids is a solid afternoon’s work. With the fix complete, the adhesive needs a day to cure properly, but the lids need to sit for thirty days before they can be put to use in our collection space. This time allows any volatile chemicals that may be present in the caulk to off-gas completely, and is an important step for the protection of our specimens. If used immediately, certain chemicals that may come out of the adhesive as gasses that could chemically react with the exoskeletons and dried tissues of the insect specimens in the drawer. This hazard is best avoided, and that is easily done with a little patience.

Once the month for off-gassing has passed, the drawers can be re-introduced to the collections room and swapped out for other lids that need fixing. Before too long, all of our deteriorating lids will be fixed, and I’ll be moving on to other projects to keep our Natural History collection safe and stable for decades to come.

 

Image: A box of butterflies with a repaired lid–safe and sound! © Manitoba Museum

Aro van Dyck

Aro van Dyck

Collections Technician – Natural History

Aro van Dyck earned her B.Sc. from the University of Manitoba, majoring in Biological Sciences and minoring in Entomology. She has also researched the diversity of wasps and bees Winnipeg’s greenspaces…
Meet Aro van Dyck

Collections for Community: A New Access Initiative

Last year the Manitoba Museum piloted a new program to provide community members increased access to Museum collections. Weekday appointments to view collections are sometimes difficult for folks who work full-time or are enrolled in school. This program was developed through discussions with artists, makers, and interested community members. We decided on a free open-access event on a weekend, one where people could sign up and come and spend a few hours looking at many items cared for in storage, rather than on display in the Museum galleries.

Since the majority of the HBC and Anthropology Collections are of First Nations, Métis, or Inuit origin, we structured the initial sessions with preference given to individuals who self-identify as Indigenous. Due to tight collections storage spaces, we kept each session to a maximum of 10 participants. A smaller group setting created a nice, intimate learning environment for discussion, and enabled us to move freely within collection storage as a group.

A small group of individuals surrounding an open drawer to closer view the objects stored inside.

Participants exploring the Anthropology Collection. ©Manitoba Museum

An open drawer containing twelve intricately beaded and quilled wall pockets and bags, laid out carefully for storage.

One of many drawers within the HBC Museum Collection featuring wall pockets with beadwork and quillwork. ©Manitoba Museum

For these sessions we brought in skilled artists to discuss the objects with the group and to share learning experiences in traditional artistic techniques. We were very fortunate to feature Jennine Krauchi and Cynthia Boehm at our first session, and Tashina Houle-Schlup and Cheyenne Schlup for the second session. All four of these artists are not only incredibly skilled with beadwork, embroidery, and quillwork in their own artistic practices, but also knowledgeable on historic pieces within the Museum’s collections. Participants were able to learn so much through this collaborative structure with community artists and makers.

A small group of individuals standing beside a selection of artifacts laid out on a countertop next to an interior window.

Cheyenne Schlup sharing knowledge with participants (note his beautiful work in the background). ©Manitoba Museum

A small group of individuals surrounding an open drawer to closer view the objects stored inside.

Artist Jennine Krauchi shows session participants several beautifully beaded artifacts stored with care ©Manitoba Museum

Based on the success of this program last year, we hope to offer 3-4 more sessions in the upcoming year, featuring different artists to share these wonderful collections with interested community members.  If you’re interested in participating, keep your eyes on the Museum’s website and social media for the next session!

Don’t miss out on our special Mother’s Day tour From Talk to Table: Indigenous Motherhood on May 12. This tour explores parenting throughout time on Turtle Island and includes include an in-depth tour of Indigenous artifacts in the Museum Galleries and behind-the-scenes.

Dr. Amelia Fay

Dr. Amelia Fay

Curator of Anthropology & the HBC Museum Collection

Amelia Fay is Curator of Anthropology and the HBC Museum Collection at the Manitoba Museum. She received her BA in Anthropology from the University of Manitoba (2004), an MA in Archaeology…
Meet Dr. Amelia Fay

A Day in the Life with… Tashina!

Tashina Houle-Schlup is the Head of Indigenous Programming & Engagement and we love having her on the Museum team! In this video, tag along on a day in her life here at the Manitoba Museum.

Learn more about the Indigenous Artists Market and how to become a vendor here.

 

Join our team! We’re looking for an Indigenous Learning Facilitator through the Young Canada Works program. This person will work closely with Tashina, sharing knowledge of Indigenous content in exhibits, and assisting in developing and delivering programs with a specific focus on Indigenous cultures for all Museum audiences. Find full position details here.

Journey Through the Manitoba Museum’s History

The Manitoba Museum celebrated its 50th anniversary at its current Rupert Avenue location in 2020, but did you know that collecting and preserving artifacts and specimens in Manitoba started in an official capacity around 1879? That year, the Scientific and Historical Society of Manitoba was founded, with a mission to research and preserve the scientific and historic work being done in the province.

While a formal museum had yet to be created, both the Scientific and Historical Society and private collectors put on temporary exhibitions throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries at various venues and private residences throughout the province.

In 1932, the collections-specific Manitoba Museum Association, an unincorporated entity, was established and an official brick-and-mortar museum opened at the Winnipeg Civic Auditorium, which also housed a concert hall and the eventual Winnipeg Art Gallery. On December 15 of that year, its inaugural exhibit about butterflies and moths soft-launched with subsequent exhibits opening as equipment, such as glass cases, were purchased. By May 1934, 50,000 visitors from around the world had made a visit to the new Manitoba Museum.

Black and white image of multiple fish specimens mounted on boards hanging on a wall above a museum display case housing various natural history specimens.

Exhibits at the old Manitoba Museum in the Winnipeg Civic Auditorium, circa 1940s. Image: © Manitoba Museum

Black and white image of museum display cases showcasing various Indigenous artifacts, including a kayak.

Exhibits at the old Manitoba Museum in the Winnipeg Civic Auditorium, circa 1940s. Image: © Manitoba Museum

The Manitoba Museum operated with a small staff and a group of volunteers, advisors, and honorary curators. Honorary (volunteer) curators of botany, vertebrates, invertebrates, and “ethnology” were all professors from the University of Manitoba, with honorary assistants to the curators coming from both academia and the community. These roles focused on collecting specimens and artifacts, creating exhibits, and presenting lectures on relevant topics.

Black and white image of a museum display case housing various artifacts related to the fur trade.

Black and white image of a museum display case housing various Indigenous artifacts.

The History and Archaeology departments occasionally still reference the original accession ledgers that date to the inception of the museum. These ledgers detail basic information about objects acquired from the public – listed under the headings of donor (or vendor), locality, object, and particulars. The history objects were divided into four separate categories – Firearms & Military, History & Early Settlers, Ceramics, and Numismatics. The archaeological objects were accessioned into a single ledger by date. Not to worry, our conservation department has since encapsulated the individual pages for longevity’s sake.

Image of an inventory page with multiple columns listing items and their descriptions. Most of the rows have been struck through with red ink.

Sample of page from old Manitoba Museum history accession ledger. Image: © Manitoba Museum

Black and white image of a black rectangular box with closed lid.

Photograph of H8-62-207, a pewter snuff box donated to the old Manitoba Museum on March 29, 1934 by Mrs. Andrew K. Stephens, as listed on the sample ledger page. Image: © Manitoba Museum

Black and white image of a man painting a mural of a gently-hilled prairie landscape; table with various art supplies in the foreground.

In 1965, the Manitoba Museum Association was dissolved by provincial legislation in favour of the incorporation of the Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature and the Manitoba Planetarium. Construction of the Museum at 190 Rupert Avenue was underway by the late 1960s, designed by Winnipeg-born architect Herbert Henry Gatenby Moody (leave some names for the rest of us, sir!). While the new facility was being constructed, the existing collections were put in storage.

The new incarnation of the Museum presented its first galleries in 1970 – just in time to commemorate Manitoba’s centennial. The iconic bison diorama greeted the first visitors and ushered them into the former Grasslands gallery. This era also saw the advent of paid curatorial positions for the first time in the Museum’s history.

Between 1970 and 1976, the Earth History, Urban (Winnipeg 1920), Nonsuch and Arctic/Subarctic galleries opened, and 1980 and 2003 saw the introduction of the Boreal Forest Gallery, HBC Gallery, Parklands/Mixed Woods Gallery, and the Science Gallery to the lower level.

Image: Manitoba-born artist Clarence Tillenius is pictured here painting the backdrop of the Pronghorn diorama in the Grasslands Gallery at 190 Rupert Avenue. Tillenius also painted the mural behind the Bison diorama in the museum’s Welcome Gallery. © Manitoba Museum

In 1997, the Museum dropped the “of Man and Nature” from its legal name and became known as the Manitoba Museum once again. Do people still occasionally ask if I work at the “Man and Nature”? Why, yes, they do.

A circular beaded coaster with red

Pictured above is a beaded coaster made by Mrs. Dinah Monias Beardy and donated to the museum in 1979. The coaster depicts the original Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature logo. Mrs. Beardy’s son is renowned artist Jackson Beardy, whose work is featured in the Boreal Forest Gallery. Image: © Manitoba Museum, H4-1-451

Cortney Pachet

Cortney Pachet

Collections Technician – Human History

Cortney Pachet started working at the Manitoba Museum in 2001 as a tour guide while earning her a BA (Honours) from the University of Winnipeg. She quickly realized that she wanted a career in museums…
Meet Cortney Pachet

Fossils in Cedar Lake Amber

Cedar Lake amber is from the Cretaceous era, which means that dinosaurs were roaming through the forests at the time that it formed. Sometimes it can contain preserved insects or other small organisms, which give key insight into life at this time!

In this video, join Dr. Joe Moysiuk, Curator of Palaeontology & Geology, in the Natural History Collection storage to learn about some of the newest pieces in the collection!

Check out some Cedar Lake Amber on display in the Earth History Gallery!

Plan your visit today

Winnipeg 150: City of Contrasts

Winnipeg citizens have been fighting inequality and racism for over one hundred years. Join Dr. Roland Sawatzky in the Winnipeg Gallery to learn about these contrasts within our city.

This series celebrating Winnipeg’s 150th anniversary is ongoing throughout 2024, so keep an eye out for more #Wpg150 videos!

Did you know this Winnipeg Jets history? Pt. 2

Are you cheering on the Jets as they hit the playoff ice again tonight? In part two of our peek into the Winnipeg Jets collection, Cortney shows us some of the artwork relating to significant players in the hockey club’s history!

Check out some of the Jets Collection on display in the Winnipeg Gallery!

Plan your visit today

Did you know this Winnipeg Jets history? Pt. 1

The Winnipeg Jets are going to the playoffs! Skate back through their history in this video with Cortney, as she shows you some of the neat artifacts in the Jets Collection here at the Museum. Come back next week for part 2!

Check out some of the Jets Collection on display in the Winnipeg Gallery!

Plan your visit today

Make Every Day Earth Day! 

By Mika Pineda, Learning & Engagement Producer for Youth Climate Action.  

Every year on April 22, we celebrate our home, the Earth, and all the wonderful things it provides us – from the food that nourishes our body, the shelter and clothing that keeps us warm, to the air and water that allow us to live and breathe.

An adult and two children working in a garden bed.

Here are just a few ideas that can do at home to celebrate Earth Day, every day:  

  • Change up your commute: consider walking or cycling to your destination.  
  • Lend a helping hand: gather some friends and start a community clean-up in your neighbourhood.  
  • Get gardening: plant a tree or a wildflower garden this Spring to attract pollinators. 
  • Conserve with care: take shorter showers to save water and turn off lights in empty rooms to conserve electricity.  

Celebrating and appreciating the Earth doesn’t have to be a one day event; every little thing you do to help the planet makes a difference!

 

Get your hands dirty by planting a garden to celebrate Earth Day. © Kampus Production

Still looking for Earth-friendly activities?  

Join us for Earth Days at the Manitoba Museum on April 20 and 21! Play “Planet vs Plastics”, a fun and educational board game led by our Youth Climate Alliance; check out our special planetarium shows: Atlas of a Changing Earth and We Are Guardians; explore the Museum Galleries on an Earth Days scavenger hunt; and stop by the Earth Day reflection Wall to ask yourself: What action will I take to keep our environment healthy?

A seated adult smiles at a child as they engage with a board game propped up on an easel.

Learn how we can protect our Earth together. © Manitoba Museum

Two children placing sticky notes on a blue wall filled with other previously placed notes.

Ask yourself “How do I want to see the future unfold?” at the Earth Day Reflection Wall. © Manitoba Museum

An adult and three children engage with digital exhibit screens on a round table. A mural showing the water system is on the wall behind them.

Find solutions to keep our waterways healthy in the Science Gallery. © Manitoba Museum/Rejean Brandt

Help us celebrate Earth and learn how we can better protect our future, together! 

 

Did you know that this stone was rubbed smooth by bison?

This stone in the entrance to the Prairies Gallery is more than just a big rock. It represents the bison rubbing stones that are icons of the prairies! In this video, Learning & Engagement Producer Erin shares how bison used these boulders, and how this one arrived in the Prairies Gallery.

Image of bison at rubbing stone ©Craig & Rosemarie Stewart and Fort Whyte Alive. Used with permission.

 

You can learn more about the process of bringing this bison rubbing stone to the Museum on our blog, here.