Sled (called a cariole) covered with green painted canvas and interior lined with plush olive-green velvet. The letters HBC are painted in white on the curved front, and the Company’s Coat-of-Arms painted on the side in white and red. The Coat-of-Arms features two elk flanking a crest with St. George’s cross in red and four little beavers in each quadrant, topped with a fox sitting on a cap, and a banner with their Latin motto Pro Pelle Cutem scrolled along the bottom.

HBC Museum Collection

In 1994, the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), one of the world’s oldest surviving corporations, donated its artifact collection to the Manitoba Museum. The HBC began to acquire historical objects for a new museum in Winnipeg in 1920. Over the years, the holdings grew from a few hundred objects to over 27,000 items. The collection continues to grow through donations from the descendants of fur trading families and other Company employees.

Approximately two-thirds of the artifacts are of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit origin. These objects illustrate both traditional lifestyles and cultural adaptations to the commercial fur trade. While many cultures are represented, most are from the western prairie and subarctic regions. The European/ European-Canadian holdings tell the Company’s story in the forms of furnishings from the head office in London, England; commemorative medals; trade goods; and objects related to navigation, exploration, and some retail activities. Many artifacts reflect the legacy of fur trade employees whose daily activities bring to life the history of the fur trade in Canada.

Our search for the fascinating stories associated with the artifacts takes us to libraries, to other heritage institutions and private collections, and to archives where we study original letters, correspondence journals, maps, photographs, and films. Our research activities reach out to Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers who help us identify cultural objects, to fur trade historians, to descendants of fur trade families, and to those who were part of the 20th century fur industry. With their assistance, we will continue to fill in the important gaps in the collection with knowledge and future acquisitions.

The Manitoba Museum is proud to partner with York Factory National Historic Site for a future exhibit refurbishment project.

A long tan-coloured canoe made from birch bark with dark coloured seams from the sap and resin used to seal them. The interior wooden ribs of the canoe can also be seen.

Full-size birch bark canoe made in Lake Savant, Ontario in the early 20th century. It can be seen on display hanging from the ceiling in the HBC Gallery. Image © Manitoba Museum 

A long rifle with the barrel pointed to the left of the image in order to show the brass serpent side plate above the trigger. Part of the flintlock mechanism can be seen over the top of the rifle.

A typical HBC flintlock trade gun made by J.E. Barnett & Sons in 1871, featuring the brass serpent side plate. Image © Manitoba Museum 

A light grey soapstone carving depicting a seated man wearing a parka with a pointed hood, holding a large rectangular soapstone pot on his lap while he carves out the interior.

Man & Cooking Pot, soapstone carving by Lukasie Tunu Saviakjuk in 1958, Nunavik. Image © Manitoba Museum 

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