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Cultural Anthropology

Cultural Anthropology


In Manitoba, the roses aren’t red

It’s almost Valentines Day and the flower that most people associate with that holiday is bright red. Long-stemmed red roses have long been the flower of choice for people wooing their sweethearts. But if you’ve ever gone hiking in a wild Manitoba grassland or forest, you might have noticed that the roses we have here are pink, rarely white, but not red. In fact, there are no bright red wildflowers in our province. Why not?

Scarlet Paintbrush (Castilleja coccinea) is one of the reddest wildflowers we have in Manitoba, but it tends to be orangey-red rather than bright red. © Manitoba Museum

Why Flowers Have Colour
To understand the lack of red flowers in Manitoba, we need to think about why flowers exist at all. Flowers are the reproductive organs of plants; they produce eggs and/or pollen. Since plants can’t move around to find a mate, they often use animals to move the pollen from one flower to another. Successfully transferred pollen fertilizes the eggs of the receiving flower. To attract animals, plants grow structures that animals will find attractive, like beautiful or unique scents, and petals with eye-catching colours.  They also usually reward the pollinator with nectar.

Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) attracts hummingbirds, but butterflies, moths and bees are also important pollinators of this plant. © Manitoba Museum

The Nature of Colour
Colour exists because different surfaces reflect different wavelengths of light. Light is made up of a whole spectrum of colours, evident in a rainbow or when light shines through a prism. Just like some animals have a better sense of smell than others, they also see things differently. Birds and humans can see red flowers quite well, but most insects cannot. To an insect, red is difficult (though not impossible) to tell apart from green leaves. For this reason, areas where birds are common pollinators (such as tropical rainforests) tend to have lots of red flowers. Areas with mostly insect pollinators typically have lots of yellow and violet flowers. In Manitoba, our only bird pollinators are hummingbirds, the most common being the Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris).

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris) move pollen from flower to flower in exchange for a nectar reward. Illustrated by Silvia Bataligni © Manitoba Museum

Abundant Insect Pollinators

Small bees and flies, not birds, pollinate our wild roses, including Prairie Rose (Rosa arkansana). © Manitoba Museum

Insects are the most abundant pollinators in Manitoba, so most of our flowers are highly attractive to bees, butterflies, moths, flies, wasps and/or beetles. Flowers that are orange, yellow, blue and violet are most attractive to insects, as these colours are readily visible to them. However, unlike humans, insects can also see into the ultraviolet (UV) range. This ability explains the presence of so many, seemingly white flowers in the province. Flowers that we see as pure white or plain yellow, actually usually reflect UV rays, and look much different to insects than to us. White flowers are also often pollinated by moths, because white is more visible in moonlight than any other colour.

Many insect-pollinated plants, like Dandelions (Taraxacum sp.) have patterns that are visible only under UV light (left) © Wikimedia Commons CCA-SA 4.0

Why do cultivated roses look different from wild roses?
Humans have been cultivating roses for thousands of years. In the process, we selected features that we find attractive but that make them largely unattractive to pollinators. Colour is one factor. Insect pollinators do not usually visit red roses because they can’t see them very well. Further, cultivated roses have many, densely packed petals (not just five like the wild ones), that cover up the pollen-containing anthers, making them difficult for pollinators to access. So, the end result is that these beautiful flowers now function only as aids to human, not wild, romance.

The Manitoba Museum’s new Prairies Gallery has a whole exhibit on pollination where you can see what native pollinators look like. © Ian McCausland/Manitoba Museum


FROSTBYTE: World Water Day Fundraiser Party @ RAW:almond

(Winnipeg, MB: January 26, 2023) – FROSTBYTE is a one-of-a-kind fundraising event & experience being presented by Science First in collaboration with MEMETIC to raise funds supporting the World Water Day youth conference at the Manitoba Museum on March 22. The fundraiser party will take place at the RAW:almond event space at The Forks located on the frozen Red & Assiniboine Rivers in Winnipeg on February 5, 2023. Frostbyte runs 5 pm – 11 pm and tickets can be purchased for $99 each plus fees at www.memetic.ca/tickets.

FROSTBYTE will feature local visual artist & VJ Jabez Lee showcasing his custom designed and immersive projection mapped visuals within the interior of the latest edition of RAW:almond along with some of Canada’s best cutting edge electronic music artists playing a range of cinematic dubby beats and futuristic dancefloor oriented house & tech house. FROSTBYTE is imagined as a lounge & reception type of experience with a mixture of seating, standing and a dancefloor area (bring your dancing shoes!). Ticket holders will be able to enjoy locally inspired craft cocktails & drinks with top shelf bartenders mixing and serving drinks from Winnipeg’s Patent 5 Distillery along with a beer selection from Little Brown Jug. As opposed to the familiar sit down meal this space is known for, FROSTBYTE will include a specially selected variety of hors d’oeuvres served throughout the event to provide some delicious bites of food to accompany the visuals, music and dancing. FROSTBYTE will create a temporary artistic multimedia nightclub experience inside of this incredibly unique space – all for a great local initiative.

Tickets, information & event partners:

Date: February 5th, 2023
Show Time: 5pm – 11pm
Event name: FROSTBYTE
Event description: Unique fundraiser event for World Water Day @ Manitoba Museum
Venue: RAW:almond on the frozen river at The Forks
Organisers: Science First, MEMETIC
Tickets: $99 + fees
World Water Day info: www.manitobamuseum.ca / www.sciencefirst.ca

To purchase tickets to this fundraising event and to find out more information about the organisations hosting these events, check out the MEMETIC website (www.memetic.ca) and click on the FROSTBYTE ticket link to secure a spot. More information about World Water Day is available via the Science First website (www.sciencefirst.ca) and at The Manitoba Museum website (www.manitobamuseum.ca).

All of the proceeds from the FROSTBYTE fundraiser party will support World Water Day, an ambitious and timely full-day free educational conference for 460 students taking place on March 22nd and being presented by The Manitoba Museum in partnership with Science First. In addition to the daytime student conference there is an evening public presentation at The Manitoba Museum with guest speaker water scientists followed by an audience Q&A and reception in the science gallery following the main event. The theme for the UN Water Day 2023 program is “Accelerating Change”. The local World Water Day program features world renowned guest speaker scientists, engaging workshops, a planetarium documentary viewing and take home action items for the attendees providing them tools to make accelerated change happen in their communities and worldwide. Teachers will be able to sign up full classrooms or smaller groups of students to attend World Water Day beginning on February 1st, 2023. More details about the conference and how to sign up for registration information can be found via The Manitoba Museum here: www.manitobamuseum.ca or an inquiry email can be sent to [email protected] with the subject of World Water Day




Media Contacts: 

Nathan Zahn
Campaign Director
Science First /3-90 Annabella St. / Winnipeg MB R3B 3K7
T 204.298.3464 / E [email protected]
www.sciencefirst.ca / @ScienceFirst42

Brandi Hayberg
Manager of Marketing & Communications
Manitoba Museum
[email protected]


Manitoba Tyndall Stone achieves status as Global Heritage Stone Resource through collaborative efforts of University of Saskatchewan and Manitoba Museum

A crew cuts Tyndall Stone blocks out of the solid bedrock at Gillis Quarries, in Garson. Photo: Graham Young/Manitoba Museum

(Winnipeg, MB: January 24, 2023) – A type of stone quarried only in Manitoba has found international recognition as a designated Global Heritage Stone Resource by the Subcommission on Heritage Stones. This designation provides recognition to dimension stones that have broad significance to humanity. Tyndall Stone is the only Canadian stone on this list, and it becomes a member of a select group that also includes Carrara Marble (Italy), Deccan Basalt (India) and Portland Stone (UK).
The nomination process was spearheaded by Dr. Brian Pratt of the University of Saskatchewan, assisted by Dr. Graham Young, Curator of Geology & Paleontology at the Manitoba Museum.
Tyndall Stone has long been recognized within Canada as a premier building stone,” says Dr. Young. “It is treasured both by people involved with architecture and construction, and by those of us who study the rocks and fossils of Manitoba. Since it is such a wonderfully useful material, it seemed long past the time that it should also receive international recognition, listing it with peers such as Italian Carrara marble (used in ancient Rome) and Indian Makrana marble (used in the Taj Mahal).”

The Subcommission on Heritage Stones, which is part of the International Commission on Geoheritage, is under the auspices of the International Union of the Geological Sciences; its purpose is to raise awareness of culturally significant building stones, and in doing so, increase knowledge and encourage conservation and protection of extraction sites.
 “As of early 2022, there were 22 stones designated as Global Heritage Stone Resources, and ten more were added in December 2022,” says Dr. Pratt, who has been a member of the Subcommission since 2016. “The nomination process involves a comprehensive, detailed checklist which provides the geological context and architectural uses. Tyndall Stone was an obvious candidate to be the first Canadian stone nominated because of its unique appearance and its widespread use, for example for the exterior cladding of the Manitoba and Saskatchewan legislative buildings and the interior of Centre Block on Parliament Hill.”

Tyndall Stone was used in the construction of many of our important heritage buildings, such as the Old Law Courts Building (R) and Land Titles Building (L) on Broadway Avenue in Winnipeg. Photo: Graham Young/Manitoba Museum

Tyndall Stone has been used in building as a dimension stone since the turn of the 20th century. In addition to the iconic legislative buildings in Regina and Winnipeg, monumental buildings using Tyndall Stone that were constructed in the first decades of the 20th century are distinctive elements in the centres of these and other cities and towns. These buildings, constructed when the prairie provinces were growing rapidly in population prior to the Depression, have stood the test of time and are in good condition, lending a sense of permanence. Cities and larger towns now have historical or heritage societies and, in collaboration with various levels of government, many of these buildings have been designated as heritage properties and are protected.

Tyndall Stone is a fossiliferous stone, containing abundant fossils of marine organisms such as corals, sponges, giant cephalopods (relatives of squids and octopus), trilobites (relatives of crabs and spiders), and many other forms. These date from the Ordovician Period of geological time, and lived in a tropical sea that extended across what is now North America, from Texas to Greenland, about 450 million years ago.

Tyndall Stone is characterized by its beautiful mottled appearance, and fossils such as this receptaculitid (a member of an extinct group). Because of the mottles, Tyndall Stone has sometimes been called a “tapestry stone.” Photo: Graham Young/Manitoba Museum


“For many decades, Gillis Quarries has generously provided research and collecting access to paleontologists from the Manitoba Museum, and to other scientists. Tyndall Stone is a treasure trove of fossils of Ordovician age, and thanks to the access we have been provided, the Museum has built an important collection of these fossils, which are used for scientific research, exhibits, and programs. Gillis Quarries was also very supportive of the Museum when we developed an exhibit on the history of quarrying, and the fossil panels in our foyer,” says Seema Hollenberg, Manitoba Museum’s Director of Research, Collections and Exhibits.

Tyndall Stone is a trade name that has been in use since the early 20th century, soon after quarries were opened at Garson, Manitoba, in 1895. The name is now trademarked by Gillis Quarries Ltd.




Media Contact: 

Brandi Hayberg
Manager of Marketing & Communications
Manitoba Museum
[email protected]


Science in the Snow

More weight equals more speed on this icy slope. ©Brandi Hayberg

By Mike Jensen, Planetarium/Science Gallery Programs Supervisor

When thinking of activities to do on a bright Winter’s day, science doesn’t usually come to mind. Surprisingly, science is at work with almost every fun pastime you can conduct out in the snow. You just need to know what to look for!

Of course, the first thing you think about as you zoom down a snow-covered hill on your favorite toboggan is physics, right? Well, it should be, because the laws of physics are actually in the driver’s seat when you are careening down a slope with no brakes. Next time you hit the slopes, conduct some experiments.

Do you go faster with more or less weight?

Does the shape or type of material of your toboggan affect how fast you go?

Does a steeper or gentler slope make a difference to your speed?


Whether you toboggan or tube will affect your speed, the fun remains the same! ©Jillian Hanstead

Once you are done experimenting with your sled, shore up your engineering skills by building a snowman. Surprisingly, it’s not as simple as you think. Here are some science and engineering factors to consider when making Frosty in your front yard.

  • Moisture content. Snow can be too wet or too dry, so having the right amount of water to ice crystals can make or break your construction. Water is the glue that sticks the ice crystals together.
  • Pack it down. This actually melts some of the snow, which then re-freezes and helps to bind the snow together.
  • Watch your center of mass. There’s a reason the largest snowballs go on the bottom. Don’t go making Frosty top-heavy, otherwise you risk catastrophic failure.

Just the right amount of moisture in snow can make a happy snowman. ©Victoria Akvarel


After you’ve had your fill, come put your new-found science and engineering skills to the test at the Manitoba Museum’s Science Gallery. Design and build your newest creation at the LEGO brickyard, or see if you can be the first to cross the finish line at the Engineered for Speed Race Track!




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“Ketch” up with the Nonsuch!

Sail into the past with the Manitoba Museum’s Dr. Amelia Fay, Curator of HBC Collection, and learn more about the infamous Nonsuch.


This Winter Break, for a limited time only, the Manitoba Museum will be offering tours that give a rare look into the cargo hold of the Nonsuch. In light of this unique opportunity, I’d like to share some interesting tidbits about this replica ship and surrounding gallery.

The Nonsuch is a full-sized replica of a 17th century ketch that was constructed in the mid-20th century to celebrate Hudson’s Bay Company’s 300th anniversary. You may have noticed that there is no wheel to steer the ship; that’s because the original Nonsuch pre-dated the invention of the ship’s wheel! Instead, the ship is guided by the tiller, a lever that connects directly to the ship’s rudder. Imagine sailing this ship across the cold North Atlantic and into the icy waters of the Hudson Strait.

I think it would have been pretty terrifying, and the chosen captain for the replica agreed. Captain Adrian Small advised that Nonsuch be towed across the Atlantic, and it began its sailing tour of North America along the St. Lawrence River. I’m often asked why the beds in the Captain’s quarters are so small, and it has nothing to do with stature. Sleeping somewhat upright, propped up with pillows, was very common during the 17th century to help with digestion and assist with breathing. Although people were a bit shorter in the past, the difference is not that great. The average height for British men in the late 1600s was 5’5”, while today the average is 5’8”.

The hardy crew that sailed the Nonsuch along the St. Lawrence River. ©Gaby Demers.

As you wander the gallery, take note of the sights and sounds. Extensive research went in to every prop and sound in the gallery to ensure historical accuracy. All of the dishes in the tavern are replicas of actual ceramics and pewter that have been recovered archaeologically from Deptford, England that date to the late 1660s. Enjoy your visit to the Museum this Winter Break, and get ready to wow your friends and family with your newfound knowledge!

The Nonsuch off the coast of BC, 1972. Photographer: A.M Sharp. HBCA 1987/363-N-18.5/13