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Collections & Conservation

Collections & Conservation


Twas the week before Christmas

Post by Cortney Pachet, Collections Registration Associate (Human History)


Twas the week before Christmas and all through the museum,

Artifacts wondered if visitors would see ‘em.

Some historical treasures sat smug on display,

While other objects remained hidden away.


Ornament; Christmas Tree, H9-29-358 ©Manitoba Museum


Ornament; Christmas Tree, H9-29-365 ©Manitoba Museum Dating to 1927, these ornaments decorated the Christmas tree of a young Winnipeg couple, married in 1925.

These ornaments once hung on old Christmas trees,

Some dating as far back as the 1920s!

With the curator in his office and I snug in mine,

I catalogued objects from way back in time.


Light; Christmas Tree, H9-12-790 ©Manitoba Museum NOMA was the largest manufacturer of Christmas lights prior to 1965, when the company filed for bankruptcy.

When deep in the vault, exploring I go,

Finding boxes of Christmas lights from long, long ago.

Quick to the shelf, with nitrile gloved paw,

I admire the condition, in a reverent awe.


Light; Christmas Tree, H9-12-790 ©Manitoba Museum

The box is pristine, it’s practically new!

A string of Noma lights within, in green, yellow and blue.

When what to my wandering eye should I see?

It’s Frosty the Snowman on small cardboard skis!


Ornament; Christmas Tree, H9-22-337 ©Manitoba Museum

Then a large mechanical Santa, who seems truly alive,

Bought in the forties from Eaton’s for two-hundred-seventy-five!

Before Winnipeg, Toronto was where Santa got his kicks

-he decorated the home of a man named F. William Nicks.


Ornament; Christmas, H9-8-487 ©Manitoba Museum Purchased by F. William Nicks, former chairman of the Bank of Nova Scotia in Toronto. Mr. Nicks purchased this Santa Claus to decorate his home in the late 1940s for $275. When Mr. Nicks passed away in 1972, Santa Claus was inherited by his sister, who displayed him in her home in Winnipeg.

The wreaths, the records, the garland and more!

Lovingly bought long ago from a store.

Now all a part of our Christmas collection,

Even some doughy Christmas confection!


Bread; Christmas, H9-12-773 ©Manitoba Museum

And not all the things are from days of yore;

Some come from a time when break dancers tore up the floor!

Cabbage Patch Kids and Snoopy to boot…

Our vault contains all kinds of modern-day loot!


Toy; Snoopy, H9-21-311 ©Manitoba Museum Squeeze toy in the likeness of Snoopy, Charlie Brown’s beagle from the Peanut series.

I could go on; our collections are vast,

A sleighful of artifacts from Christmases past!

But alas is time to turn out the light,

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Toy; Christmas, H9-29-818 ©Manitoba Museum
Wind-up plastic reindeer riding a snowmobile.



Ladies and Gentlemen…..The Beetles!

Post by Janis Klapecki, Collections Management Specialist (Natural History)

[Note: This blog contains descriptions and images that may not be suitable for sensitive individuals.]

In the Natural Sciences Department, we receive hundreds of specimens each year that will eventually be added to the permanent Scientific Collections. The Curators collect specimens through their many research projects, while other specimens are collected and donated by the general public. Most of these specimens require some very specific and time-consuming preparation before they can be in a state for which a researcher can use them. Fossils are exposed with precision tools, insects are painstakingly pinned, plants are pressed and artfully mounted, and mammal and bird study skins are skillfully prepared (See Debbie Thompson’s blog – https://manitobamuseum.ca/main/a-lasting-legacy-of-a-birds-untimely-death/).  Skeletons of vertebrates also require a very specialized preparation process that very few people are witness to.

Bat skeleton

Silver-haired Bat Skeleton, MM 24215 (Lasionycteris noctivagans) ©Manitoba Museum

Located deep within our Zoology research area is a small room that houses, what we affectionately call the ‘bug tank’. It is actually a metal 45 gallon drum that houses a beetle colony that we use to clean the very small or fragile skeletal specimens that may otherwise be damaged using other cleaning methods. These can include birds, small rodents such as mice and squirrels, snakes, frogs, toads and fish. One of my many tasks here at the Museum is to prepare skeletal specimens and maintain the beetle colony by keeping them healthy and well-fed.

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This room is kept locked and access is restricted at all times.  This is the 45 gallon metal drum that keeps the beetle colony contained – notice the locked lid. ©Manitoba Museum

The beetle species that we use in our colony is Dermestes maculatus (Identified by Reid Miller, 2016) from the Family: Dermestidae, a group that is commonly referred to as hide beetles. The adult beetles of this species are black in colour and can range in length from 5.5 to 10.0 mm. The larvae are brown in colour, hairy and pass through 5 – 11 instars, before they pupate into adults. They are natural scavengers and feed on a wide variety of material including skin, hair feathers, and natural fibers, such as wool, silk, cotton, and linen. With this in mind, I’m sure you can appreciate how careful we are at the Museum with keeping these beetles contained!


Cedar Waxwing, MM 1-2-5003 (Bombycilla cedrorum) skeleton being cleaned – notice the shed larval casings ©Manitoba Museum

Specimens are readied for the beetle colony by first making sure that all of the data has been recorded, including its weight and the standardized measurements that are taken. The specimen is then de-fleshed by removing most of the muscle tissue, internal organs and eyes. It is then placed in a drying cabinet so the specimen does not introduce mold into the colony. Once completely dried, the skeletons are placed in rows on top of a layer of cotton batting within a cardboard box lid. Each skeleton is placed with enough space between them so that if the beetles move any of the tiny bones while they are cleaning them, they don’t become mixed with the specimen next to it. The cotton batting provides a soft ‘matrix’ that the adult beetles and larvae travel through. I can then stack about 3 to 4 of these trays within the drum, which could translate to approximately 150+ small skeletons in the colony at any given time. Depending how active the colony is, skeletons can be completely cleaned in 7 to 14 days.  The “Beetle Room” is kept at a cozy 28°C (83°F) to promote their life cycle and every few days I spray the trays with distilled water for added humidity. Then, I leave them alone to work their magic.


Carefully spaced Garter Snake skeletons ready to be put into the beetle colony ©Manitoba Museum

These are NOT free-range beetles!

Adult beetles and their larvae weave their way through the skeletons seeking food  ©Manitoba Museum

The Dermestid beetles and their larva are just one of the types of insects that pose danger to our galleries, and the specimens and artifacts that are stored in the collections storage rooms. To ensure that none of our colony beetles escape, special considerations were built into the room. These beetles can burrow into many surfaces/media, so the walls are cinderblock, sealed with 3 coats of epoxy paint, instead of drywall. I’ve installed a perimeter of yellow tape around the room that has a layer of a sticky product applied to it (this product is similar to ‘Tanglefoot’ that is used to stop the Elm Bark Beetle on trees). The bung holes on the lid of the drum have two layers of fine mesh – this allows air exchange, but they can’t get escape.

sticky-perimeter            insect-trap

Escape Prevention Measures – 3 rows of sticky tape by the door of the bug room, and sticky traps are installed throughout the Museum and monitored. Collections and Conservation staff are always on alert to possible insect activity and have scheduled monitoring throughout the galleries and collections spaces. ©Manitoba Museum

1. flying-squirrel-with-box      2.  storage-drawer

1. A perfectly cleaned Northern Flying Squirrel, MM 9979 (Glaucomys sabrinus) skeleton ready to file in the Collections Room, within an acid-free storage box ©Manitoba Museum

2. Systematic storage of skeletal specimens in our Permanent Scientific Collections Room ©Manitoba Museum

Completed skeleton specimens are given a final cleaning with a small paintbrush to remove any debris or shed larval casings. They are then catalogued, and each bone including the skull and mandible are numbered and placed in an acid-free box with its data label. After a final freezing treatment to be sure they are completely free of anything live, they are ready to be filed into our main Scientific Collections storage room.

These specimens are then available for researchers and educational purposes.


This is Hallowe’en!

Halloween Masks

That’s right, boos and ghouls, Hallowe’en is right around the corner! And the History collection at the Manitoba Museum does not disappoint when it comes to its Hallowe’en artifacts. Let’s journey back to a time when homemade popcorn balls and plastic masks with tiny air holes prevailed…



Elaborate costumes and accessories of today’s youth would shock the Trick-or-Treaters of yesteryear. While we don’t have any old sheets with eyeholes cut out by someone’s mum, we do have a selection of masks favoured by kids in the 1970s. Masks were often worn with matching plastic smocks and featured small eyeholes for reduced visibility and a layer of condensation on the inside from the wearer’s laboured breathing as they ran from house to house yelling “Hallowe’en Apples!”



Children’s Hallowe’en Masks (H9-12-28, H9-12-29, H9-12-30 )

©Manitoba Museum


Commercial Hallowe’en costumes were being produced as early as 1910, when Massachusetts-based Dennison’s began manufacturing costumes out of paper. This Dennison’s “Gypsy” costume was sold locally at the Ukrainian Booksellers and Publishers store, formerly Ruthenian Booksellers, on Main Street. The costume consists of a skirt, shawl, kerchief, and mask; all made from crêpe paper (so don’t forget to bring your umbrella!).


h9-16-44 h9-16-44-2

Dennison’s “Gypsy” Party Costume (H9-16-44) ; Adult Woman’s Costume (H9-16-44 2 )

©Manitoba Museum


Tricks and Treats

Trick-or-Treaters in 2016 can expect to find toothbrushes and miniature containers of Play Doh amongst the candy in their bags or buckets at the end of the night. In the 1970s, homemade treats and apples were still offered to neighbourhood kids making their rounds on Hallowe’en. A handful of sweet treats might be placed in small paper bags like these ones.



Hallowe’en Treat Bags (H9-33-387, H9-33-388)

©Manitoba Museum


Instead of sugary goodies, in the early 20th century, a person could send their best Hallowe’en wishes to their favourite trick-or-treater with a seasonal postcard from the George C. Whitney Company, replete with jack-o’-lanterns and black cats.


h9-36-240 h9-36-241-42

Hallowe’en Postcards (H9-36-240, H9-36-241, H9-36-242 )

©Manitoba Museum


Plastic or paper, card or candy, the question remains, do you go in for the classic “Trick or Treat” or kick it old school with a sing-songy “Hallowe’een Apples”?


Happy Hallowe’en!


Post by Cortney Pachet, Collections Registration Associate (Human History)



A lasting legacy of a bird’s untimely death

Palm Warbler

[Note: This blog contains descriptions and images that may not be suitable for sensitive individuals.]

Most people pass by a dead bird, rarely giving it a second thought and leaving it where it lies.  But there are many members of the public who notify the Manitoba Museum of the dead birds they do find, often from fatal encounters with windows.  The Manitoba Museum appreciates the opportunity to salvage these, as it does not hunt birds to add to its Ornithology collection.

Before I start to process a bird, notes are taken:  donor, collector, location, date of acquisition, when it was found and prepared; observations (broken bones, external parasites, molting, etc.); then scientific data, including weight, total length, tail length, wing size, beak and leg length.   If possible, sex and age are determined by plumage and feather conditions, which are later confirmed through dissection.  I use tools ranging from a simple ruler to surgical blades and scissors.

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Tools laid out before beginning work on Palm Warbler   © Manitoba Museum


The first incision is along the breast bone, and then I free the skin from the abdominal cavity without puncturing the abdomen.  I carefully free one leg at a time, removing muscle from the femur (= thigh bone) and then wrapping it in cotton and pushing it back into place with a bit of borax.  The cotton recreates the muscle I have just removed to retain the bird’s natural shape.  The borax aids in drying and preservation.

April 2016 end of 016

Femur wrapped in cotton  © Manitoba Museum


Once both legs are done, I work to free the skin from the rump/back, and then cut through below the pelvic area.  The wings are done much the same as the legs.  During this whole time, I am constantly taking notes on the amount, colour and location of fat deposits, locations of molting, any old injuries and internal parasites and anything else that may be out of the ordinary.

The pattern on the top of the skull can reveal the age of the bird.  If a large area is soft and transparent, the bird is a juvenile; if it’s hard and opaque, it indicates an adult.  The brain and the eyes are removed and the skull filled with cotton.

The body is reshaped with cotton wrapped around a wooden dowel and the skin is pulled up around it.   The incision along the breast bone and abdomen is sewn up.  Often, the feathers need a gentle cleaning, with special attention to primp the plumage.  The bird study skin is wrapped in a cloth ribbon to hold the wings in place and is pinned to a foam sheet to dry in a special drier.

April 2016 end of 023Palm Warbler for blogApril 2016 end of 026July 7 and 8 2016 001

Left to right:   Palm Warbler (#132 DT) – body cavity filled with cotton;  body cavity sewn closed and feathers primpted;  study skin wrapped and pinned to foam;  finished bird study skin   © Manitoba Museum


Using a microscope, I confirm the sex of the bird and measure the testes or ovary.  Determining whether the female bird has laid eggs, I search for the nearly invisible oviduct.  If it’s straight, then the female hasn’t laid a clutch, but if it appears convoluted, she has laid eggs.  I also look for internal parasites (such as roundworms), and then examine the stomach contents, noting everything found within.   By far, the scariest of the stomach contents have to be spiders.  Eye to eye and larger than life under a microscope, I jump every time I find one!

With patience and respect, it takes about 3 ½ hours to prepare a bird the size of a warbler.  The study skin and data collected will aid researchers in the future, and any and all information I am able to collect is invaluable, a lasting legacy of a bird’s untimely death.  The contributions to research are greatly enhanced when the public becomes involved, sharing with us their own discoveries and interest in the environment around them.


Post submitted by Debbie Thompson, Diorama and Collections Technician (Natural History)


Dress Shop Adventure: Hats, Handkerchiefs and a “Hair Tidy”!

H9-8-396 (1)

Over the last few weeks, I have been assigned the task of doing inventory, cataloguing, and condition reporting artifacts in “Amy Galbraith’s Dress Shop,” in the Museum’s Urban Gallery. I have also cleaned and photographed the objects. Through this process I have been delighted to learn more about the history behind the artifacts that we see in this 1920’s shop. I thought you might enjoy some of my findings!

Hats were a staple of the 1920’s wardrobe. The Dress Shop has nine hats that help to portray life and style during the 1920’s. Some of the hats stand out in my memory just because of where they are from. For example, the hat with gold feathers [H9-8-396 (1)] is from Holt Renfrew and the green hat [H9-38-496] is from Eaton’s. With some of the hats, we are lucky enough to have a more detailed recorded history. The pink hat [H9-4-451B(1)], which you can see in the window of the Dress Shop, is also from Eaton’s and it was worn by Miss Hazel McMillan as maid of honour at her twin sister’s wedding in 1929. The one with green chiffon roses [H9-5-147] was worn by Mrs. James A. Richardson during a visit to Buckingham Palace in 1919. These generous donations, which the Museum received in the 1970’s, help us to understand and imagine Winnipeg in the 1920s.

H9-8-396 (1)H9-38-496Front/side veiw of mauve hatH9-5-147

From left to right:  H9-8-396 (1),  H9-38-496,  H9-4-451-B (1),  H9-5-147   © Manitoba Museum

Strolling through the Urban Gallery, one may not at first realize how many artifacts are in each room. Take another look! Each room is an incredibly detailed portal into Manitoba’s past. The Dress Shop has a number of smaller objects that help to complete the room. These items include hatpins, hairpins, mirrors, shoes, sewing supplies and handkerchiefs. On the counter, there are a number of handkerchiefs. Here are some pictures of some of the handkerchiefs that help add to the 1920’s feel of the room.


From left to right:  H9-5-4-h,  H9-5-4-d   © Manitoba Museum

My time at the Manitoba Museum has been filled with learning. Sometimes these moments happen in unexpected places. For me, the Dress Shop has something I had never heard of before. The small bowl with a hole in the centre was a common dressing table item, called a “hair tidy” or “hair receiver”  [H9-3-720]. Women used these items to store hair that came out in their brushes or combs. This hair would then be used for different purposes. One thing women would use their hair for was to create hair pieces, or “ratts.” These pieces would be added to the elaborate hairstyles of the 1920’s to help give a natural volume. A second thing women would use their hair for was to make pin cushions, as hair is less prickly compared to pinfeathers and the natural oil from the hair would keep the pins in good working order.


Hair Tidy, H9-3-720   © Manitoba Museum

Next time you pass by the rooms in the Urban Gallery make sure to stop and look, you might be surprised at some of the interesting artifacts you can see!

Post submitted by Ellen Stothers, Collections and Conservation Assistant (YCW summer student)


What’s in a number?

CP CC Blog Sewing

Every object you see when you visit our museum galleries, from tiny insects to the Nonsuch, has a special number assigned to it that helps us to track all its movements and link important information to the object. Assigned at the time the object is accessioned – when it officially becomes part of the museum collection – the catalogue number is always inscribed on the object in an inconspicuous place, which is why you’re not likely to see many of these numbers when viewing an exhibit.

Deciding where and how to apply these numbers is part of my job as the Human History Cataloguer. Methods of applying numbers depend mainly on the nature of the object – paper objects like certificates and books will get a number handwritten in pencil, for instance. A number should be removable, in case the object is deaccessioned, meaning we never ever use permanent marker or a knife to etch the number onto an object. Ok, fine, it’s happened once or twice well before my time. Museum practices have come a long way!

CP CC Blog Etching









Harpoon Head (HBC 11-59). Catalogue number etched into metal, an example of how not to number an object. © The Manitoba Museum



A recent acquisition of material from the C. Kelekis Restaurant allowed me to practice the primary ways we apply numbers in Human History.

CP CC Blog Pencil








 C. Kelekis Restaurant Menu (H9-38-491 A). Paper objects are numbered using a No./HB pencil.

© The Manitoba Museum



The most straightforward and simple application is by good old No. 2/HB Pencil. Pencil can be used on paper, wood, Ivorex or French Ivory, some plastics, unglazed ceramics, etc. All I need is a freshly sharpened pencil and I’m good to go!

CP CC Blog SuppliesCP CC Blog Acryloid

Above: A selection of supplies used in the numbering process.

Below: C. Kelekis Restaurant Menu (H9-38-490 A). Catalogue number printed on acid-free paper is applied to this laminated menu with Acryloid B-72. © The Manitoba Museum


For metals, some plastics, glazed ceramics, glass, etc., things are more complicated. I use an in-house produced material called Acryloid B-72 to adhere a number printed on acid-free paper to the object. A second coat of B-72 is applied over the number to seal it. Waiting for everything to dry takes longer, but the number is easy to read and reversible, meaning it can be removed even after a long time.

CP CC Blog Sewing









C. Kelekis Restaurant Souvenir T-shirt (H9-38-489 A). Label with catalogue number is sewn onto garment.

© The Manitoba Museum


In the case of fabrics, such as a garment, flag or pillowcase, the number is written in archival ink on a synthetic fabric, called Hollytex, or cotton twill tape and sewn onto the object with a few quick stitches. I’m sure it goes without saying, sewing with Nitrile gloves on is challenging (one should always avoid getting blood on the artifacts).

Why number an object? The catalogue number itself reveals a lot about an object. It could tell us which department is responsible for the object, when the object was accessioned and even where the object comes from, in the case of archaeological specimens. The catalogue number links the objects to all their information in our collections database. Finally, with large numbers of similar objects (like 2,361 bottles or 688 dolls in our History collection, for instance), the catalogue number allows us to distinguish one object from another. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg that is collections management!


Blog submitted by Cortney Pachet, Cataloguer (Human History)




Dirty Little Secrets

Whenever someone walks into the Conservation lab, they are usually awed at all the scientific equipment. Large wall cabinets filled with chemicals, adhesives, paints, glass beakers and flasks. There is safety equipment, such as fume hoods and spiralling exhaust vents hanging from the ceilings to ensure proper precautions are taken. With this complex system, it looks like conservators are risking their lives every day to preserve and protect cultural heritage. However, I am about to share with you one of our dirtiest cleaning secrets that we keep hidden behind these lab walls.

SALIVA. Yes, that is correct.  At some point you’ve probably heard of the saying when cleaning something to give it the old “spit shine.”  Although we don’t actually spit on our artifacts, nor do we lick anything, conservators do use their own saliva as one method to clean a number of different types of artifacts. The technique is relatively simple in that a cotton swab is hand rolled onto a wooden probe and lightly dampened by placing the swab into our mouth (generally pre-lunch).  The swab is then rolled onto the surface that we are cleaning to remove the desired residue. Tests are always done prior to a full cleaning to make sure that other soluble materials that we want to stay on the artifact don’t get swept away.

Now why this technique is used and how well does it really work? Human saliva is composed of amylase, which is a type of enzyme. Enzymes are used to break down particles depending on their make-up, so in the instance of amylase it helps humans to break down food particles. For conservators, amylase is also very useful in removing built-up grime and dirt that are found on artifacts. The benefit of using “enzymatic cleaning” (a more professional term for those completely grossed out) is that it is readily available, free and does not require us to use large safety equipment such as fume hoods.

As mentioned, a range of artifacts can be cleaned using this technique, including leather, beading, oil paintings and wooden surfaces. Now, I probably wouldn’t recommend trying this at home, as there may be an instance that something gets removed from your precious heirloom that you didn’t want to remove, but you are always welcome to contact a conservator here at the Manitoba Museum, who can advise you on the process first.  In the images below, you will see a before and after picture of an oil painting that was recently cleaned using saliva. Happy cleaning!


Fort Garry, 1869

Signed L.-S (likely Lionel Stephenson)

Oil painting on artist’s board


H9-11-603 01 BT

Oil painting before treatment. Copyright the Manitoba Museum

H9-11-604 02 AT

Oil painting after treatment using saliva cleaning technique. Copyright the Manitoba Museum


Blog submitted by Carolyn Sirett, Conservator


Discovery of an Empire Dress (circa 1800) in the Museum’s collection

The programs and activities of the Manitoba Museum are supported by over 200 volunteers. These dedicated individuals sometimes bring specialized knowledge that casts new light on items within the Museum’s collections. Lee-Ann Blase has volunteered for many years in the Department of Collections and Conservation. She applies her background in textiles and historic costumes to preparing condition reports and reviewing descriptions of the clothing in the History collection.


Volunteer Lee-Ann Blase examines a dress in the History Lab © Manitoba Museum

Recently, Lee-Ann was delighted to discover an embroidered cotton dress in pristine condition that dates back over 200 years to the era of the Napoleonic Wars. Imagine Josephine Bonaparte and her contemporaries portrayed in a diaphanous gown such as this, with its high empire-style waist, daringly deep neckline and short bloused bodice, and short puff sleeves.

H9-4-414 (2)H9-4-414 (1)

L to R: Empire dress, viewed from behind and front (H9-4-414) © Manitoba Museum

The A-line skirt is composed of four panels and finishes with a small train. Drawstrings at the neck and waistline tie at the back, creating tiny pleats in the bodice and skirt.

What makes this dress truly unique are the hundreds of delicate metallic leaf motifs hand-embroidered on the fine muslin. Each leaf is outlined using narrow silver metallic strips and has two metal spangles in the middle, held in place with small metal prongs.

H9-4-414 (3)

Close-up of metallic embroidery © Manitoba Museum

The richness of the embroidery suggests an outfit for evening wear. Imagine the gown sparkling with the reflection of numerous candles and lamps! Given its age, the dress would have been completely constructed by hand. The fine needlework skills may be the work of a professional dressmaker.

Unfortunately, we know virtually nothing of the original owner of the dress beyond the suggestion that she was a forebear of Lt. Col. Thomas Clarkson Scoble (1840-1900). Thomas Scoble was born in Kingsbridge, Devonshire, England to Rev. John and Mary Anne Stainburn Scoble. His father, John, was active in the British Abolitionist movement and immigrated with his family to Canada in 1853 to continue his work in this county. Thomas studied engineering at the University of Toronto, and combined careers in the military and engineering. He moved to Winnipeg in 1881 with his wife, Georgina Carruthers, where he was a devoted advocate of the Hudson Bay Railway. He also served as editor of the Nor’Wester and the managing editor of the Great West Publishing Co.  The complete story of how this delightful dress made its way to Manitoba may never be known, but it is certainly one of the many treasures in our collection.

Post submitted by Nancy Anderson, Collections Assistant (Human History)


So, once something is named, isn’t that it?

Polygonum cilinode becomes Fallopia cilinodisRecently, my husband asked me what I was working on, and when I told him I was updating the nomenclature for specimens in the Family Polygonaceae, he looked at me funny. I realized that as a non-biology person, my response was not that informative to him. It did not tell him that I was working on updating the official names of plant specimens, or even which plants they were, and it also did not make sense as to why their names would even change.

When a living organism is recognized as being unique and different from other organisms, it is assigned a scientific name. This is the name that is used in the Museum’s database. french speaking dogA common name may be also included, but common names are not as useful or informative. This is because common names are different in each language. For example, the domestic dog is “perro” in Spanish, “chien” in French, “sobaka” in Russian, “gŏu” in Mandarin, “hund” in Danish, and “cane” in Italian. However, the scientific name for dog is Canis familiaris, and this is the same everywhere in the world.

Even in the same language, it is not unusual for a common name to vary from country to country or region to region. A common ditch plant in Manitoba is seen below. Its scientific name is Tragopogon dubius. In Manitoba, this plant’s common name is most often Goat’s Beard, but in Europe it is known as Salsify, and in the southern United States it is called the Wild Oyster Plant.

tragopogon dubius plant photo

So, each different type of organism is assigned a scientific name to be sure scientists know what organism they are talking about. Scientific names have two parts to them, the genus (Tragopogon) and the specific epithet (dubius), and these are latinized words. The scientific name is therefore a binomial, that is, it has two parts to the name. The genus is always capitalized, and the specific epithet is not. To show that this is the official scientific name of an organism, the two words are either underlined (usually done when handwritten) or italicized (usually used when typed).

There are strict rules for naming organisms. In biology, the sub-discipline of naming organisms is called taxonomy. There are international conferences and conventions where scientists meet to discuss and agree upon the rules for taxonomy, and this may mean that names changes.

tragopogon dubius labelThere are various reasons for names to change:

1. Sometimes a specimen is reclassified, and the name has to change to reflect this.

2. Sometimes a specimen was incorrectly identified. In the bottom photograph at the left, the original name was actually correct. Someone changed it in 1997, and then in 2014 it was changed back to its original, correct name.

3. Sometimes it is discovered that specimens with different names are actually the same thing, and so one name is adopted over the other.

4. And sometimes, if you wait long enough, an older name resurfaces (as in the bottom right photograph).This is usually because of a reorganization of the naming system.

Name changed back to Rumex triangulivalvis label

Name changed back to Bistorta vivipara plant and labelSo the next time you wonder what is that tree, insect or bird, try to find out its scientific name!

Post by Karen Sereda


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

Collections & Conservation

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NancyNancy Anderson holds a B.A. (Hons) in History from the University of Winnipeg, and received her M.A. in Canadian Social History jointly from the University of Winnipeg and University of Manitoba. Anderson has over 30 years experience working in museums in Manitoba, over 20 of them as Assistant Curator at Dalnavert Museum, a National Historic Site in downtown Winnipeg. She has served on the board of the Association of Manitoba Museums (AMM), including two terms as President, and is an instructor for the AMM courses Collections Management, Deaccessioning, and Education and Public Programming. Anderson has been Collections Assistant (Human History) at The Manitoba Museum since 2009.

JK ImageJanis Klapecki obtained a B.Sc. from the University of Manitoba, specializing in Zoology and Botany.  She also holds a certificate in Managing Natural History Collections from the University of Victoria, BC.   Janis has over 20 years experience related to all aspects of managing collections within Natural History and their various disciplines, including: acquisitions, specimen processing, cataloguing, documentation, database records, media management, integrated pest management procedures, ensuring proper storage standards, and preventive conservation treatments.

cp profile photoCortney Pachet has a BA (Honours) from the University of Winnipeg and a Master of Arts in Museum Studies from the University of Leicester. Her role as a cataloguer involves documenting and researching artifacts in the Human History collections. She visits museums wherever she goes and her daughter already has the hang of measuring her toys and organizing them by object type.

Betty-Ann Penner has over 35 years of museum experience in records management at The Manitoba Museum.  From 1976-1996, Penner trained with CHIN on various automated systems and in 1998 and 2000 undertook training on Cuadra STAR Developmental Software.  Penner is responsible for the overall administration of collection records,  including the administration, maintenance, and development of the Museum’s STAR/Museums collection database system, and has trained many contract staff and volunteers in the past.

Karen Sereda profile photoKaren Sereda has a Diploma in Biological Sciences Technology from the Kelsey Institute of Applied Arts and Sciences in Saskatoon, a Bachelor of Science (Ecology) from the University of Manitoba, and a Master of Science (Botany) also from the University of Manitoba. Since 2005 she has been a sessional instructor at the University, teaching a variety of biological courses. She began as a volunteer in Botany at the Manitoba Museum, and in 2014 took on the position of Cataloguer – Natural History. She has been mostly concentrating on Botany and Entomology collections.


CarolynCarolyn Sirett received her B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Manitoba, Diploma in Cultural Resource Management from the University of Victoria, and Diploma in Collections Conservation and Management from Fleming College in Peterborough, Ontario.  Carolyn’s role as the Conservator is to ensure the long-term preservation of the Museum’s large and diverse collection of artifacts and specimens through preventive maintenance techniques, remedial treatments and exhibit development


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