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Collections & Conservation

Collections & Conservation


The Amazing Criddles, Pt. 2 – Wawanesa Site Visit

Telescope Selfie

One of the lesser known aspects of museum work involves the lending and borrowing of artefacts and specimens. This isn’t to say you can borrow the Nonsuch for a lovely family sailing holiday, but other museums and heritage sites often work with us to make the most of our collections. Lower Fort Garry has several pieces of our HBC Museum Collection onsite to illustrate the rich history of the fur trade, for instance. Loans can be short little stints for special events or drag on for decades as the original paperwork yellows in its file folder. As I wrapped up cataloguing all of the Criddle collection, I realized that one remaining artefact had been on loan to the Sipiweske Museum since 1991. Other than a black and white photograph, we had no data on this object –a telescope used by Percy Criddle to observe Halley’s Comet in 1910– which meant…a ROAD TRIP!!!

All objects in our collection need to be catalogued and undergo a condition report, so your friendly neighbourhood cataloguer (me) and our conservator extraordinaire (Carolyn) headed off on an adventure towards the quiet, picturesque town of Wawanesa, 202 kilometres west of Winnipeg, to visit the elusive Criddle telescope.

We were making good time, so I decided to show Carolyn some of my favourite stops along Highway 2, including the World’s Largest Smoking Pipe in St. Claude (my grandpa’s hometown!) and Sara the 17 foot tall Camel in Glenboro.

Arriving in Wawanesa, we headed to the Sipiweske Museum and made our way through the winding galleries until we arrived at the telescope. We wasted no time getting to work, examining the 130 year old telescope from every angle. This Browning telescope was made in London and brought over to Percy Criddle in 1885 by his friend and benefactor, J.A. Tulk.

Pulling apart the eyepieces, I found a lovely surprise – Percy Criddle’s name, written in his own hand inside a lens piece, preserved for all this time. He treasured this telescope and observed many celestial events with it, including the passing of Halley’s Comet and a lunar eclipse.

After all the disassembling, measuring, describing, photographing and reassembling, we celebrated with a telescope selfie, as you do.

Before heading back to Winnipeg, Carolyn and I decided to visit Aweme (now the Criddle/Vane Homestead Provincial Heritage Park), the homestead of the Criddles from 1882 to 1960. Sadly, the big house, St. Albans, was destroyed by fire in June 2014. We poked around the sandy patch where the house once stood, trying to picture it.

We hiked around the short trail, exploring Norman Criddle’s entomology lab and the crumbling foundation of Stuart Criddle’s former home, Gardenview, before stopping to pay our respects to Percy Criddle and his family at the graveyard.

Percy’s telescope has been catalogued, all its information and history entered into the collections database, the loan renewed for a five year term. Head out to Wawanesa and see it for yourself!

Cortney Pachet, Cataloguer – Human History


The Amazing Criddles – Part 1: The Family

seed collection

Within the History Collection at The Manitoba Museum, we have sub-collections of artefacts, tied together by object type (like our collection of crocks) or social movement (like our fraternal orders material). One of our significant collections comes from a homesteading family whose breadth of material culture has caused my coworkers and I to ask on more than one occasion, “did the Criddles ever throw anything away?!”

In 1882, an Englishman and his family immigrated from Addlestone, Surrey, UK to a patch of sandy land east of Brandon, Manitoba to try his hand at farming. Unlike typical homesteaders of his day, Percy Criddle was the son of aristocrats, schooled in medicine and music at Heidelberg. He fancied himself a renaissance man, dabbling in sport, astronomy, law, medicine and music, hosting weekend parties and maintaining a detailed meteorological record from 1884 until his death (and then perpetuated by his children until they abandoned the homestead in 1960). The most compelling peculiarity, however, is his family. Percy met Elise Harrer while he was studying in Germany; the two never married, but Elise moved to London after Percy returned to the UK and they proceeded to have six children –one of whom died in infancy. Shortly after Elise became pregnant with their last child, Percy married an Englishwoman named Alice Nicol. Alice gave birth to four children in the UK and another four at Aweme, their Manitoban homestead. After moving to Canada, both women (with Elise now using the surname “Vane”) lived under the same roof and the children were raised together, although their understanding or acknowledgement of their relationships has been the subject of debate.

From the meteorological record, visitors’ register and diaries to scientific catalogues and photographs, the Criddles were a well-documented family. The documentation pales in comparison to the material culture accumulated and preserved by the family from 1882 onward. Percy details purchases and acquisitions in his diary, noting their prices and sources and writes about his opinions on objects like his new telescope or organ. He also talks about items produced by the family; building blocks Percy made for the children or the house flag sewn by Alice. Percy and the family were regularly visited by an old friend, J.A. Tulk, who travelled from Surrey to Aweme on an annual basis, lugging all sorts of medicines, scientific instruments, books and other gifts for the Criddle-Vane family.

109 years after the Criddles arrived in Manitoba, a handful of Percy’s grandchildren donated the bulk of
their grandparents’, aunts’, uncles’ and parents’ belongings to The Manitoba Museum –a whopping 3481 artefacts and 302 specimens! Over the past six months, the majority of my time has been dedicated to completing the cataloguing of this collection. Hundreds of Criddle artefacts have passed through my hands and I count myself lucky to have access to these amazing items. Here are a few of the most memorable artefacts I catalogued from the Criddle Collection:

inlaid box1. Storage Box made by Stuart Criddle in 1903. This box, decorated with mother of pearl inlay, is one of many inlaid pieces created by the Criddle sons on winter evenings at Aweme. Lined with lush blue velvet, the box has an internal locking mechanism that is released by pressing a small piece of inlay located near one of the hinges. It took a lot of fiddling to discover exactly how it opened, so I noted the specifics in the catalogue record for future reference. The question remains…what was Stuart hiding in there?


seed collection2. Seed Samples collected by Norman Criddle between 1906-1933. Mainly known for his work in entomology, Norman Criddle was appointed the Manitoba provincial entomologist in 1919 and ran an entomology lab at Aweme. However, like his father, Norman had a range of interests, so it comes as no surprise that he was also a renowned watercolourist, his delicate illustrations of local flora gracing the pages of agricultural books like “Fodder and Pasture Plants” and “Farm Weeds of Canada”. During the second half of his life, Norman developed a collection of seeds totalling nearly 700 samples sourced primarily from Aweme and the surrounding area. Each sample was stored in a vial and all the relevant information was scrawled by Norman on tiny labels adhered to the vials. Deciphering what I refer to as “historical handwriting” is an arduous task and my colleagues started asking “Still working on the seeds?” I would shoot daggers from my eyes.

cow cutoutsmore cows








3. 129 Homemade cut-outs of Animals, including cows, bulls, horses, and dogs, made by Alma Criddle, circa 1909. According to Criddle-de-diddle-ensis: A biographical history of the Criddles of Aweme, “the cows were such favorites that [Alma] made paper replicas of them, instead of the usual “paper dolls” of childhood.” She cut out animal bodies from scraps of paper and used watercolours to tint the animals, replicating their unique looks. In the case of the cattle, Alma wrote the name of each animal near its belly, including bulls Carrot, Rhubarb and Radish and cows Rice, Nectar, Sylvia, Myrtle, White Rose and Pansy. I seriously had a huge smile on my face the entire time I worked on these paper animals.

family flag4. The St. Albans house flag was made by Alice Criddle in 1888. St. Albans was the title Percy assigned to the family home at Aweme, in the tradition of great English houses. Why he chose the name is never explained in his diaries, although his granddaughter speculates at length why he may have selected St. Albans in her book “Criddle-de-Diddle-Ensis”. The flag is well preserved and I love that it lends to Percy’s established reputation as an eccentric.

Now that the work is complete, I find myself feeling a mix of relief and longing –I’ll miss this peculiar homesteading family but other collections beckon. Stay tuned!
-Cortney Pachet, Cataloguer


Adventures of a Summer Student

As a child, the Manitoba Museum was my favourite field trip destination. I loved it all, but my favourite part was the Urban Gallery- particularly Madame Taro’s small apartment, which I thought was quite glamorous. Visits to the museum— either with classmates or family— activated my interest in history and museum work, and this summer I was given the opportunity to join the team through the Young Canada Works program as Collections and Conservation Assistant.

One of the first projects I took on was identifying locations for human history artefacts whose locations are “unknown” in the database- 527 artefacts, to be exact. It could be summed up as a glorified treasure hunt. I spent a good few weeks going through the human history storage room— climbing up ladders, rifling through drawers, looking for catalogue numbers on hundreds of artefacts— and finally whittled the number down to 188! This was certainly one of my favourite projects of the summer. It was really fascinating to explore the variety of objects in the collection—everything from night caps to an Oh Henry bar package.

Throughout the summer I performed various forms of preventive conservation. At the end of each month I went through the galleries, labs, and storage vaults throughout the museum to take temperature and humidity measurements, as well as check the bug traps (yikes!). In August, a few of us went down into the hold of the Nonsuch to take taper gauge and trammel rod measurements to determine if the wood of the ship had expanded or contracted in the last six months. Even being on the ship for a couple hours felt a bit claustrophobic- I can’t imagine sailing for months at a time! In addition to these larger projects, I made boxes, altered mannequin forms, and recovered the bales in the Nonsuch gallery. The skills I had learned in 8th grade Home Economics finally paid off.

Perhaps one of the coolest things I did this summer was make a replica of a felt pennant for the upcoming “Nice Women Don’t Want the Vote” exhibit (which potentially thousands of people will see- no pressure!). Because the original artefact is quite worn and faded, a replica is more suitable to send along with the travelling exhibit to prevent further damage. Although I was a bit concerned about my lack of sewing and crafting skills, I am incredibly happy with and proud of the final product. The theme of the exhibit—women’s suffrage in the early 20th century—has been an interest of mine for quite a few years, and to be involved in the exhibit in any way was really incredible.

I had a great time at the museum this summer and was able to work on projects in many different areas of collections and conservation. The skills I built on and developed will no doubt open more opportunities for me in my (hopefully) museum-based future. The entire experience—the work and the people—was incredible, and I hope to be back here in the future!


Hey – Who’s that Mann?

H4-2-396 05 AT

There are two new exhibits opening this summer in our Parklands/Mixed Woods Gallery here at The Manitoba Museum and we couldn’t be more excited to soon be able to share our work! The Conservation lab has been working hard these past few months to get everything documented, cleaned and mounted for its grand debut, including a very important Mann. Yes, this Mann was in fact a man, more fully known as William Mann, William Pennefather or Chief Kakekapenais, who signed Treaty No. 1 at Lower Fort Gary on behalf of the Fort Alexander Band (now Sagkeeng First Nation).

An original photographic silver-gelatin print of William Mann taken around the same time as the signing of Treaty No. 1 in 1871 was recently acquired by the Museum; however, the condition of the photograph was quite poor. As The Manitoba Museum is on Treaty No. 1 land, it is important for us to display such a prominent figure and significant artefact in our galleries; but to ensure its long term preservation, it first required a careful touch from our conservators before it could be hung on the wall.

Smoke, water and mould damage, as well as acidic backing materials and pollutants in the air causing the photograph to have a mirrored finish, were all contributors to the poor condition of the Mann photograph. The frame was also very dirty and had numerous areas of broken plaster molding. So we said – hey, let’s fix it all!

But with many artefacts there are challenges a conservator faces and this artefact proved to be one of them. As much as we want to be able to clean and revive artefacts to their former glory, sometimes certain conditions do not make it possible. After several spot tests on the front of the photograph it was found that we wouldn’t’ be able to clean it without risking more damage to the emulsion (the photo-sensitive side of a photograph). In this case the best thing to do was nothing!

The cleaning and repair of its original frame proved to be much more successful. After swabs and swabs of grime were removed and the gaps filled, the frame looks like a million bucks. We re-matted the photograph with acid free materials for its long term care and at the end – to our complete surprise – the features and contrasts in the photograph actually became more visible, even though we hadn’t intervened at all. Sometimes prevention is the best form of conservation.

With a few more weeks to go before this new exhibit opens, I have provided a few before and after images of the Mann photograph as a sneak peak of what changes are coming to our galleries.

Carolyn Sirett – Conservator

The Mann photo before treatment

The Mann photo before treatment

The photo after treatment

The photo after treatment


Inspiring Daphne Odjig mural back to its original glory

Work begins on the mural

When people ask me what inspired me to work in the museum field, I can pinpoint my answer to a single visit to The Manitoba Museum when I was twelve years old. That summer we spent our vacation touring around Manitoba on day trips, packed into our Pontiac 6000 station wagon, visiting small local museums and landmarks that set one little town apart from the next (here’s looking at you, Sara the Camel!). On the roster of things to see was The Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature (as it was called back then). Thanks to my babysitting job, I was armed with a newly purchased camera and ready to capture every moment of our visit. Rounding the corner away from the bison that greeted us in the first gallery, I stopped. There it was, colourful and bold, larger than life. The mural. Snapping a photo, I decided at that moment, I needed to work at a museum. I still can’t say for certain what it was about that mural that led me to this epiphany, but twenty years later, here I am, working at the museum, blogging about it.

Daphne Odjig, a Potawatomi artist from Ontario, was commissioned to paint the mural, “The Creation of the World”, in 1972 as part of the Earth History gallery. Odjig was living in Manitoba at the time and later went on to cofound the Professional Native Indian Artists Incorporated with artists such as Jackson Beardy, whose works also appear at The Manitoba Museum. As I studied Odjig’s larger oeuvre in university, I came to appreciate the uniqueness of “The Creation of the World”, both in its subject matter and execution. Odjig’s paintings often depict human relationships, focusing on mothering, with images composed of darker, more muted colours bordered by softer lines while still harkening to the Woodlands School style “Creation” celebrates.

Forty-two years on display had begun to show on the face “The Creation of the World”…pencil marks, gouges from countless strollers crashing into the curved wall, cracks from the shifting plywood have marred the surface of Odjig’s beautiful contribution to the museum. On Valentine’s Day, art conservator Radovan Radulovic and his assistant Vitaliy Yatsewych began a three day restoration of the mural, a process of cleaning, filling in holes and painting. Radulovic describes the work as trial and error; creating a colour by mixing acrylic paints, painting a spot, letting it dry, deciding if the colour matches the original and starting again, if necessary. The aforementioned cracks, however, are impossible to repair without going in behind the mural or removing it altogether. For the time being, Radulovic and Yatsewych, by all accounts, have brought “Creation” back to its former glory. The addition of a rail guard will prevent errant strollers and carts from damaging the mural and new exhibit panels will put further emphasis on this cherished piece.

Have a good look at “The Creation of the World” the next time you visit The Manitoba Museum. Marvel at its scale. Absorb the colours. Take a photo. Appreciate its creator and those who continue to preserve it for future museum-goers (so, don’t touch it, ok?).

Cortney Pachet, Cataloguer-Human History

Work begins on the mural

Work begins on the mural

Conservator Radovan Radulovic works on large crack in mural

Conservator Radovan Radulovic works on large crack in mural

A paintings conservator’s tool kit

A paintings conservator’s tool kit

Vitaliy Yatsewych mixes colours to create the perfect match

Vitaliy Yatsewych mixes colours to create the perfect match

Yatsewych tests out the colour he created on the mural

Yatsewych tests out the colour he created on the mural

The finished product

The finished product


Not Quite Sandblasting – The Joy of Air Abrasive Cleaning

These past few months the Conservation lab has been filled with archaeological treasures from fur trading posts throughout the province. Artefacts range from small silver buttons, to beads, to awls and even the tiniest of padlocks. My concentration however has been on the treatment of artefacts composed of iron. These objects are usually covered in bright orange, red or brown corrosion products with mud and other debris attached – essentially a conservator’s dream! We love to clean the dirtiest of things because not only does the artefact show beautifully afterwards, but we have the chance to uncover mysteries such as maker’s marks or small design details. Although the main goal of the process is to stabilize the artefact and slow the corrosion process, when these mysteries expose themselves we can’t help but get a little excited.

Cleaning iron has its challenges and I am glad to have been trained in the conservation profession with the latest technology of today. The process of cleaning iron artefacts traditionally involved using a lot of muscle and painstakingly scrubbing off layers of dirt and corrosion with steel wool, glass bristle brushes, dental picks and wooden probes. This takes many hours and almost always leaves a few areas un-cleaned due to a lack of accessibility.

Today the process of cleaning iron artefacts has been simplified; reducing hours of work into a task that now only takes a few minutes. Our lab is fortunate enough to have in its possession a piece of equipment known as an air abrasive unit, which I also like to refer to as my magic conservation wand.   Harry Potter would be so jealous. Air abrasive cleaning uses different types of fine powders that are added to a controlled air stream and then dispersed through a fine tipped pen. The pen is controlled by the user who directs the air stream at the artefact and moves it over the surface to the areas needed to be cleaned. And the results are awesome! Because you can direct the air flow to where you want it go – those teeny unreachable places that caused so many headaches, can now be blasted clean.

The different types of powders we use to clean artefacts with include sodium bicarbonate, aluminum oxide, crushed glass, plastic bead and even crushed walnut shell. Here are a few before and after photographs of some things that have been recently treated via air abrasion from the archaeology collection.

Carolyn Sirett, Conservatorphoto                                                                    Air abrasive cabinet and machine – not that exciting

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Before and after photographs of axe head cleaned with air abrasion – way more exciting!


Helu-2-M271 01 BTHelu-2-M271 03 AT










                                   Before and after photographs of partial copper kettle cleaned with air abrasion.



What’s in a name? It Does Matter

An unexpected aspect that has caught my interest while cataloguing is the names of collectors and identifiers. For example, there are hundreds of beetles in the museum’s entomology collection. Many of these insects were collected and identified in the 1920’s and 30’s by G.S. Brooks and J.B. Wallis, but also by R.A. Scrapneck, McKillop and Preston (both with initials W.B.), R.E. Wrigley and others in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Even without being able to put a face to them, these names have begun to stick in my head. I wanted to know more about these people, and found myself searching out information about collectors.

GS Brooks label    JB Wallis label







                                                                                                                 W McKillop 2 label

R Scrapneck label








One of the hallmarks of a good database is standardization. It is difficult to search out information if entries are not done in a particular manner. At times an inconsistency with first initials can become explainable after a little research. I learned from museum records that W. Preston was actually a former curator of the museum, and was generally called Bill the more familiar form of William. So beetle collectors B. Preston and W. Preston turned out to actually be the same person. Similarly, Bob Wrigley is R. E. Wrigley as the “R” stands for Robert.

WB Preston label

Not all collectors are professional, however. Sometimes amateurs have donated excellent collections to the museum. While updating some botanical data, I began searching out the full name of collectors who are frequently only designated by initials. Mrs. A. Simpson turned out to be Mrs. Alonzo Simpson. Alonzo, however, is her husband’s name, and so it would not really be correct to abbreviate her name to A. Simpson.

Mrs Simpson label

Any name searches I did only yielded more Mrs. Alonzo Simpson references. Luckily, a chance conversation with a long-time museum volunteer, helped me to learn that Mrs. Simpson’s daughter Mildred used to volunteer at the museum. After some further investigation on-line I found obituaries for Eva Mildred Bowie (Simpson) and her sister, Florence Claire Lloyd (Simpson) which both mentioned Alonzo and Lillian Simpson as their parents. And a 1921 census confirmed their mother’s full name to be Lillian Rose Simpson. And so there I had it, the elusive full name of Mrs. Simpson.

Another Manitoban female collector is J.M. Walker. In this case, J. is the correct first initial, as it stands for Jennifer. She did a lot of collecting in the late 50’s, while working on her Ph.D. in Botany. She was a lecturer and later on a full professor at the University of Manitoba. J.M. Shay is the same person, as Jennifer Walker married Tom Shay and took his last name, so specimens collected later by her are done by J.M. Shay.

J M Walker label

This is also especially interesting when historical names come up. The museum has in its collections plant and animal specimens collected by the Criddle family. Both N. and S. Criddle have contributions. Percy Criddle and his family homesteaded in Manitoba in the late 1800’s in the Aweme area. Despite the lack of a formal education when younger, several of Percy’s children became expert naturalists. They kept detailed records and collected a variety of specimens. In fact, Talbot, Stuart, Evelyn and Norman Criddle all have “naturalist” noted on their headstones.

N Criddle label

Dr. Neil Holliday, a Manitoba entomologist, has written an excellent history of the Criddle-Vane family which is available online:

And I wonder what other Manitoba history is yet to be uncovered by researching a name?

Karen Sereda, Natural History Cataloguer



Cataloguing Tiger Beetles

Tiger beetles are apparently very difficult to catch, although one would not know it when seeing the great number of tiger beetles in the museum’s collection. A quick survey revealed the Museum has over 500 pinned specimens in three genera; Cicindela, Ellipsoptera and Amblycheila. After cataloguing a couple hundred tiger beetles, I became curious about their biology, and did some research.

Pinned Oblique-lined Tiger Beetles (Cicindelatranquebarica) in a storage box

Pinned Oblique-lined Tiger Beetles (Cicindelatranquebarica) in a storage box

Tiger beetles are found all over the world and there have been over 2600 named thus far. North America has over 100 species. Tiger beetles are carnivores, and adults have long legs and prominent mouthparts to enable them to catch and consume other insects and spiders. Even though they have large eyes, they run so fast that vision is not sufficient to help them avoid obstacles. Instead, they hold their antennae out in front of them to monitor the landscape they are running through. Periodically, they need to stop to relocate their prey.

Oblique-lined Tiger Beetle showing long legs, prominent eyes and antennae(black bar about 1 cm long)

Oblique-lined Tiger Beetle showing long legs, prominent eyes and antennae(black bar about 1 cm long)

You can see a tiger beetle in the Carberry Sand Hills diorama at the Museum. Many of these beetles do live on the ground in dry or sandy areas, and in Manitoba this is where you may be able to see them. But be careful! They can give you quite a pinch with their sharp mandibles if you try to pick one up. Since they are carnivores, they do tend to have, for their body size, rather large mouthparts.

Mouthparts of a Boreal Long-lipped Tiger Beetle (Cicindelalongilabris)

Mouthparts of a Boreal Long-lipped Tiger Beetle (Cicindelalongilabris)

The larvae are also predatory, but rather than chasing and capturing prey, use a ‘sit and wait’ strategy. Juveniles dig a vertical burrow and then patiently watch the entrance for unwary small arthropods to venture too close. Unlike the larval stage of many other insects, tiger beetle larvae have well-developed eyes and good vision. They swiftly pierce prey with their sharp mandibles, and pull it down into their burrow to eat. Juveniles also have hooks lower down on their dorsal side to enable them to anchor themselves in their burrow and avoid being pulled out by unruly prey.

Many of the adult tiger beetles have distinctive markings on their elytra (hardened forewings) that can be used for identification. Some species are brown with yellowish-beige patterns, but others can be quite colorful. Iridescent blues, greens and reds are common.

Oblique-lined Tiger Beetle   (C. longilabris)

Oblique-lined Tiger Beetle (C. longilabris)

Laurentian Tiger Beetle (C. denikei)

Laurentian Tiger Beetle (C. denikei)

Common Claybank Tiger Beetle (C. limbalis)

Common Claybank Tiger Beetle (C. limbalis)

In my readings I came upon an extremely enthusiastic piece, written by an American entomologist Ted C. MacRae. His blog described his efforts to photograph the spectacularly colored tiger beetle, Cicindelapulchra, during a fall field trip to a site in southwestern South Dakota. He called his article “North America’s most beautiful tiger beetle”, which I assumed at first was due to his obvious fascination with tiger beetles. Later I looked up this beetle’s common name and found it in fact to be the “Beautiful Tiger Beetle”! Only a beetle lover could have named it thus…..

Karen Sereda, Natural History Cataloguer


We’re Back in the Rigging Again!


Well, after thirteen years or so, the Museum’s conservators are back climbing in the Nonsuch rigging, in order to check and clean the lines, sails and masts. This is a very exciting development for Collections and Conservation.

A bit of background information – amendments to Manitoba’s Workplace Safety and Health regulations in 2002 resulted in stricter requirements for workers climbing at heights. The Nonsuch therefore had to be provided with fall arrest lines, in order that workers could safely climb up in the rigging. The Manitoba Museum worked for the next several years to design, cost and install appropriate safety lines from the gallery ceiling. Additionally, the staff who would be doing the climbing had to take Fall Arrest training; and the Museum had to have a written Safe Work Procedure detailing how the climbing will be done.

Finally, everything has been put in place, including the purchase of safety harnesses designed specifically for women, as the two conservators who will be climbing are both female.

Conservator Carolyn Sirett was the first to go up and look at how dusty the main yard and mainsail were (very dusty!)

Carolyn on her first climb

Carolyn on her first climb
She then came back down and we decided that she could carry up the backpack vacuum that is normally used to clean on board the ship.


Carolyn was able to vacuum most of the dust off the starboard side of the mainsail, main yard and the footropes on the main yard.

Carolyn starts to climb with the vacuum

Carolyn starts to climb with the vacuum


Here she is partway up the ratlines

Here she is partway up the ratlines


Vacuuming the main mast

Vacuuming the main mast
We will continue to climb up in the rigging as time allows. Mondays during winter hours are best, as it takes time to prepare – check harnesses, get supplies – and we can’t let any visitors on board while someone is working aloft. The Museum will soon be moving to summer hours, so after next week, the work will most likely stop until the fall.


In future, instead of hauling a vacuum up into the rigging, we will be using a converted central vacuum that belongs to the Planetarium/Science Centre. It has a 50-foot long hose, so only that will have to be carried up; it will be much easier.

We will continue to clean off the Nonsuch rigging over the next fall/winter season. Dust can be damaging as well as unsightly, so it should be removed whenever possible. I hope to post some before and after images that will really demonstrate how much dust we’ll be dealing with!


Where the Dead Things Are

Recently, Melissa Pearn, our Cataloguer of Natural History collections went on maternity leave. She wrote this blog entry before she left.

As a Natural History cataloguer, I have the opportunity to work with some very interesting specimens. I love that my job involves all three areas of natural history – botany, zoology (mostly entomology), and palaeontology/geology. Having studied pollination and reproduction of Lady’s Slipper orchids for my Master’s thesis, I especially enjoy working with the botanical and entomological specimens. It’s fascinating to get to see some of the plants and insects that I have heard or read about, but have never had the opportunity to see in nature.

I’ve recently been cataloguing an interesting collection of Manitoba insects. The specimens were collected in the 1920’s and 1930’s, in places such as Victoria Beach and Winnipeg (especially Transcona). Not only is the collection fascinating because of its age and local origins, but also because of its diversity. Many of the specimens belong to the Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies), but the collection also includes insects from 11 other groups such as Hymenoptera (ants, bees, and wasps), Coleoptera (beetles), Diptera (flies), Hemiptera (the true bugs), and Odonata (dragonflies), among others.

The collection was assembled by Manitoban naturalist and entomologist George Shirley Brooks. He was born in Wrentham, Surrey, England in 1872 and came to Manitoba around 1913. He was not only a founding member and president (1932-1934) of the Natural History Society of Manitoba, but also co-founder of The Manitoba Museum and author of “Checklist of the Butterflies of Manitoba”. He died in Winnipeg on October 20, 1947 and is buried at Brookside Cemetery.

Older collections such as this one are very valuable for the information that they contain. Because many specimens have a collection date and location, they can help researchers to evaluate and determine population trends over time, or to determine the status of rare species for example. In order to maintain the integrity of these types of collections, proper storage and handling are very important. In Natural History, specimens are stored in a collections room that is controlled to create just the right temperature, light, and humidity conditions. Under less than ideal conditions, or when on display for long periods of time, specimens can become altered, as can be seen with the faded coloring of some of the moths and butterflies in the Brooks collection.

Storage case with insect groups Lepidoptera (moths) and Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies)

Storage case with insect groups Lepidoptera (moths) and Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies)


Insect case with Hymenopterans (bees, wasps), Dipterans (flies) and Hemipterans (true bugs)

Insect case with Hymenopterans (bees, wasps), Dipterans (flies) and Hemipterans (true bugs)


Two Luna Moth specimens. Though approximately the same age, the one on the left has become severely faded.

Two Luna Moth specimens. Though approximately the same age, the one on the left has become severely faded.
NOTE: Melissa had a healthy baby girl on Feb. 3. She is named Ivy. The Museum staff wish her family all the best.


Kathy Nanowin

Manager, Collections & Conservations

See Full Biography

Kathy Nanowin received her conservation training at Sir Sandford Fleming College in Peterborough, Ontario, graduating in 1990 after completing an internship at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. A native Winnipegger, she has been with the Conservation Department of The Manitoba Museum in Winnipeg since 1991, and became Manager of Collections and Conservation in January 2008. Her work has focused on preventive conservation and conservation of mixed collections.