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Hours of Operation

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at the Manitoba Museum

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Little Gothic Cottage on the Prairies

In 1895 William and Isabel Brockinton had a charming Gothic cottage built on their homestead south of Melita, Manitoba. In our new Prairies Gallery we will be featuring a small touchable model and a full scale stone replica wall section of this now abandoned home.

Brockinton House, circa 1895. From “Our First Century: Town of Melita and Municipality of Arthur,” 1983

Still standing! The Brockinton House in July 2020. Photograph by Roland Sawatzky.

First, what’s a Gothic cottage? “Gothic” conjures all kinds of associations – darkness, brooding, mysticism, fashionable black clothing, and so on. But in architecture after 1800 it really was all about style. The Brockinton house is an excellent example of a Gothic cottage, a building style brought by migrants from Ontario after the 1870s. Though somewhat rare on the prairies, it was a very common house style in Ontario from the 1860s to the 1940s.

William and Isabel Brockinton arrived in Woodstock, Ontario in 1881 from England. The Brockintons were in their early thirties, with two children, when William quit his job as an auditor for the Birmingham Railway in England. Though educated at Oxford, William for some reason wanted to try his hand at farming in Canada. They stayed in Woodstock for the winter, where they would have seen many Gothic cottages, and then joined a party of young men who were going west to homestead in Manitoba. The Brockintons chose their future farmland from a Homestead Map, and proceeded to Manitoba in the spring of 1882. The railway had only gotten so far as Brandon, where they stopped and bought supplies. From there they travelled with oxen another 130 km to their new homestead, south of present day Melita. Isabel drove in a pony-powered buggy accompanied by her two small children, leading a cow tied behind. The family survived their first winter (barely) by hunkering down in a sod hut. In the second summer William acquired a second homestead near the Souris River and built a sod hut into the side of a ravine, thus surviving yet another winter. It was on this second homestead that the Brockintons would eventually build their stone Gothic cottage in 1895.

William and Isabel Brockinton, circa 1910

When I saw their abandoned house in 2014 as part of a curatorial field trip, I was amazed by the stonework. Though the home was small and stout, there was also an air of refinement to it, and I realized that great care had been taken in its design and construction.

My colleague, Curator of Geology and Paleontology Dr. Graham Young, pointed out that the stones used in the walls were glacial “dropstones,” left behind as glaciers melted and receded to the north. Many buildings in the southwestern corner of Manitoba were made using thousands of dropstones collected from fields by settlers. Photo by Graham Young.

The “Small Gothic Cottage” was popularized by architect James Smith in an 1864 article in The Canada Farmer (Vol. 1, No. 1). It was based on houses that farmers were already building for themselves, but included exterior Gothic Revival design elements, in keeping with Victorian aesthetic ideals of the time. This included, among other things, a central high peaked gable above the front door, multi-coloured stone walls, and a hipped roof, all of which are obvious in the Brockinton home. The interior is small, with a room layout based on traditional English Lowland farmhouse plans of the 1700s. The kitchen was a back addition built after the original house was completed. 

The Brockintons likely chose to have a small Gothic cottage built because they had seen and admired them in their short time in Woodstock, Ontario. Plans were easily accessible, and a builder would have been easy to find among the 1880s wave of migrant settlers from Ontario. Indeed, the stonemason was skilled: the stones were “dressed” on the exterior, meaning their exterior sides were squared, though the field stones were originally rounded. The walls are two feet thick, and include embrasure windows: they have a narrower opening on the exterior of the wall and flare out towards the interior. This is no mere hut! The Brockintons were making a statement with this house: “We’re here to stay, and we have class.”

The house is on a rise, with the front facing west, which would have taken the brunt of northwest winter winds. Imagine opening the front door in February! That might explain the exterior vestibule added to the front of the house. The only reason for this impractical orientation, in my opinion, is the view:  a ravine and the Souris river below, with a vista of riparian trees, illumined by the setting sun in an endless sky.

View of the Souris River valley from the front window. Photograph by Roland Sawatzky.


Winnipeg’s Window: The City Hall Stained Glass

In October 2019 the Manitoba Museum opened the Winnipeg Gallery, a permanent new exhibition space about the history and people of Winnipeg. The gallery features a large stained glass window that displays the old city crest.

The city hall stained glass window after restoration and installation in the Winnipeg Gallery. Photograph copyright Ian McCausland/Manitoba Museum.

This window was one of two that was salvaged from the old city hall building when it was demolished in 1962, and recent research has revealed more history of this piece and the artist who made it.

The second city hall opened to great fanfare in 1886 on Main Street, replacing the poorly built first city hall, which only survived 7 years. The new building, designed by Charles and Earle Barber, was a marvel of architectural exuberance. At the time it was considered “one of the handsomest and cheapest City Halls in the Dominion.” It did not, however, include our window!
Photograph by Norman Caple, circa 1890, City of Vancouver Archives, LGN 630

An arched transom window (a window placed above a door) was included at both the front and back entrances to the city hall.  Early photographs, however, show that these windows were made with clear glass, not the elaborate and colourful stained glass that we show off in our gallery. Looking at photographs from different archives narrowed the date of the installation of the stained glass window to sometime between 1898 and 1905, but it wasn’t until I found a short article in the Manitoba Free Press that I knew the exact date. 

May 26, 1903

“The city hall is receiving finishing touches of its renovating, the main entrances having their old plain glass windows replaced by two stained glass windows, over each of the doors. These windows are bold and masterly in design, the seal of Winnipeg is placed in the centre, set in a frame of jewels, surrounding which is a wreath of light and dark maple leaves…”

That’s our window. Early photos also show that the windows faced inwards, meaning they were meant to be seen from inside, receiving the full illumination of daylight from the exterior. It also means that the Winnipeg crest was backwards when you were entering City Hall from the outside!

This detail of a photograph from 1910 clearly shows our stained glass window (at least the back of it). City of Winnipeg Archives, i03103

The Artist

The window was designed and made by John Raphael Allward, who moved to Winnipeg with his wife and son in about 1902. Allward was born in Toronto in 1856, and was the cousin of the famous Walter Seymour Allward who designed the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France. John Allward studied art in New York under the master stained glass artist John La Farge. Allward was a specialist in large allegorical stained glass windows, which involved painting scenes directly onto glass, and he made windows for churches throughout North America. He set up shop with a partner at 253 Main St., under the name “Allward and McCormick Glass Co. Ltd.” Allward was also one of the founders of the Manitoba Society of Artists, which held their first public exhibition of 300 paintings in late 1903. Allward served two years in the Great War (at the age of 60!), and when he returned to Winnipeg he sold the business and retired to Seattle. After the 1920s, the popularity of stained glass windows in public places and private houses waned – most examples that survive in buildings today are over one hundred years old.

The window witnessed the turmoil of the 1919 General Strike. Archives of Manitoba 3 SIS N12296


The stained glass window also kept an eye on efforts to raise Victory Bonds in support of Canadian mobilization during the Second World War, circa 1944. City of Winnipeg Archives, i01438


In this photo, we can see that the stained glass window had been removed during demolition in 1962. It was stored at the former Carpiquet Barracks Site (north of Polo Park) until it was donated to the Manitoba Museum in 1974. It was in storage until 2018, when restoration began. City of Winnipeg Archives i01473


The old City of Winnipeg crest and its inspiring motto, “Commerce, Prudence, Industry” shines forth again for all visitors to see in the Winnipeg Gallery. Nice job, John Raphael Allward! Photograph copyright Ian McCausland/Manitoba Museum.

For more information about the incredible restoration process of this window, check out the Collections and Conservation blogs of 04/18/19 and 02/02/20: https://manitobamuseum.ca/main/blogs/collections-conservation/


Imprisoning Our Own: Caught at Emerson! (Part II)

 Post by Dr. Leah Morton, Assistant Curator (History)

This research was supported by a grant from the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund.

During the Great War, 8,579 people were sent to internment camps in Canada. Over 5,000 of them were Austro-Hungarian, or Ukrainian, civilians who had been classified as ‘enemy aliens.’ They were from countries Canada was fighting against, but the main reason for their internment was unemployment. It was hard for Ukrainians to find work during the war, mainly due to nativist beliefs (many thought Anglo-Canadians should be given the jobs). Unemployed ‘enemy aliens’ made others very nervous. In 1915, over 100 Ukrainians from Winnipeg who were trying to find work were sent to the Brandon internment camp.

In May 1915 unemployed Ukrainian men in Winnipeg staged a number of public demonstrations asking for work. A rumour spread that there was work to be had in the United States, so several hundred of these men decided to walk there. Nick Lypka, who participated in the walk, remembered that the group was very careful not to break any laws while walking to the border. Many dropped out along the 110 km walk so by the time they reached the border town of Emerson, there were only between 100 – 175 men left.

By the time the small, tired group arrived in Emerson, the ‘Mounties’ were waiting for them. Lypka remembers hoping the authorities would help them find work. He was wrong. Instead, the whole group was arrested and forced to walk to the Brandon internment camp, 285 km away!

This photograph shows armed authorities marching the arrested men to Brandon. Copyright Manitoba Museum, H9-38-681C.

They arrived in Brandon, tired, bedraggled, and hungry, as they hadn’t been given any food during the march. At the Brandon site, prisoners were given one hour of time outside per day, but they were not given any work, like at some of the other camps. They passed their time playing cards and learning English. Many tried to escape and one young man, Andrew Graphko, was shot and killed during an escape attempt.

The pictures you see here were donated to the Manitoba Museum by an individual whose grandfather was likely one of the authorities involved in arresting the Ukrainian men and overseeing their march to Brandon. These pictures are an extremely important part of the historical record, as there are very few existing records detailing the arrests and forced march of May 1915.

Retired General William Dillon Otter, who was in charge of the internment camps, knew that many cities and municipalities were using internment to get rid of unemployed ‘enemy aliens’ even though they didn’t actually pose a security threat. He did not do anything to stop it. The Brandon camp was open until July 1916, at which time inmates there were sent to the Banff internment camp. The last internment camp was closed in 1920.

Some of the Ukrainian men arrested in Emerson after their walk from Winnipeg. They were hoping to get to the United States to find work. The CN Bridge is visible in the background. Copyright Manitoba Museum H9-38-681.



Imprisoning Our Own: First World War Internment in Winnipeg (Part I)

Posted by Dr. Leah Morton, Assistant Curator (History)

This research was supported by a grant from the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund.

During the Great War (1914-1918) Canada interned thousands of German and Ukrainian immigrants. Internment camps were set up across the country and a few ‘receiving stations’ were opened to process and hold those slated for internment. One of these receiving stations was located at the Fort Osborne Barracks in Winnipeg.

In 1914 Canada adopted the War Measures Act, giving the federal government sweeping powers. It allowed the government to set up internment camps and create the category of enemy alien — a designation given to people who had been born in one of the countries Canada was fighting during the war and who wasn’t a naturalized citizen. Some Germans were interned, but the vast majority were Ukrainians who had immigrated to Canada from the Austro-Hungarian provinces of Galicia and Bukovyna. By the turn of the century, there was a sizeable Ukraine population in Winnipeg. Ukrainians were not treated well in Winnipeg before 1914 but with the outbreak of the war, they were increasingly seen as a threat. Of the 8,579 people who were interned, 5,954 were ‘Austro-Hungarian,’ or Ukrainian.

This map shows the internment camps and receiving stations that were in use during the Great War. pc.ga.ca

Over 80,000 ‘enemy aliens’ had to register with the authorities. They had to turn in any guns, swear that they would not leave Canada, and carry official papers with them. Several thousand ‘enemy aliens’ were arrested and sent to internment camps. They were arrested for a number of reasons including: being unreliable, trying to cross the border, not carrying their papers, acting suspiciously, and being unemployed. Volunteering to join the war effort also led to internment! Those who were arrested were sent to an internment camp for the duration of the war. Before that, they were processed at a receiving station, like the one in Winnipeg.

This picture of the Fort Osborne Barracks was taken from the Legislative Building when it was under construction (1910s) LAC 46629

The receiving station was set up at the Fort Osborne Barracks, which at the time was located along Osborne Street, between Assiniboine Avenue and Broadway (on the current Legislative Grounds). It was in operation from September 1914 until July 1916. When Retired General William Dillon Otter, who was in charge of the internment operations, visited the Winnipeg receiving station in November 1914, he noted that 75 “prisoners” were already there, and 25 more were expected that night. About ¾ of those at the receiving station were Ukrainian. Upon arrival each internee was given clothing, a place to sleep, and they were fed.

Some people tried to escape. In September 1915, Martin Baraszchuk escaped from the receiving station by jumping out a window at the barracks. He had just been captured after escaping from the Brandon internment camp, and clearly did not want to be sent back. After jumping out the window, he was shot at by the military personnel guarding the Barracks, but they missed, and he was free for ten days, before being re-arrested and sent back to the receiving station.

Other than these small glimpses into the historical record, very little is known about the receiving station. In 1998, a plaque was placed on the Legislative Grounds to commemorate the Ukrainian Canadians who were held at the receiving station.


Legacies of Confederation: The Participation Awards!

Medals that commemorate important events in a nation’s history fill every history museum collection around the planet. Collectors and antique traders adore medals, but let’s be honest: when they’re on display they don’t have the impact of a giant dinosaur skeleton. Medals are small. But that didn’t stop politicians and government officials from clamouring for shiny objects when Canadian Confederation was officially enacted in 1867.

In our exhibit “Legacies of Confederation: A New Look at Manitoba History” we have on display not one, but two Confederation medals, minted in 1869, that commemorate the founding moment of the Dominion of Canada.

The Confederation Medal is seemingly the first honour of Canada, approved by Queen Victoria in 1868. John A. Macdonald himself, then Prime Minister of Canada, signed the recommendation on behalf of the Minister of Justice and ordered 551 medals: “One Gold [for the Queen], fifty Silver and five hundred Bronze Medals, without delay.” After a delay of a year or so the medals were delivered, and given out to various institutions and VIPs around Canada, which was comprised at the time of Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. But these medals were not meant to be worn. They sat in small boxes or stands on desks and shelves, proof of the importance of their owners.

Confederation Medal (reverse), 1869. H9-37-134. Copyright The Manitoba Museum.

Confederation Medal (reverse), 1869. The woman on the left represents “Britannia”. The girls, her subjects, represent Ontario (sickle for agriculture); Québec (canoe paddle for trade); Nova Scotia (shovel for coal mining); and New Brunswick (axe for forestry). H9-37-134. Copyright The Manitoba Museum.



Confederation Medal (obverse), 1869. H9-37-134. Copyright The Manitoba Museum.


Queen Victoria of England is shown on the front, or “obverse” of the medal. The imagery on the reverse side is a bit strange for a proud young nation. The woman on the left represents “Britannia”. The girls, her subjects, represent Ontario (sickle for agriculture); Québec (canoe paddle for trade); Nova Scotia (shovel for coal mining); and New Brunswick (axe for forestry). While the symbolism of the time indicated loyalty, to the modern mind it might look like the relationship between the infant Dominion of Canada and the British Empire was based on resource exploitation, and that Canadians were subservient, immature subjects to the Crown.

Around the perimeter of the medal is a Latin phrase: Canada Instaurata 1867 Juventas et Patrius Vigor (Canada Inaugurated 1867, Youth and Patriotic Strength).

The first four provinces are represented on the medal, and rightly so, but what Confederation meant for the rest of the continent was not in evidence. After all, the year 1869, when the medals were completed, is also the year when Canada acquired Rupert’s Land from the Hudson’s Bay Company. This was quickly followed by surveyors who trespassed on the land of Métis farmers at Red River, which resulted in a swift and bold resistance movement. The medal and its message were eclipsed by events Confederation itself had set in motion.

One legacy of Confederation is the Treaties that were negotiated by First Nations leaders and the Canadian government. Confederation and the numbered Treaties are intimately linked. It makes sense then that the first Treaty medal (made for Treaty Nos. 1 & 2) was a version of the Confederation medal. It has an extra ring around its centre that reads “Dominion of Canada Chiefs Medal 1872” on the obverse and “Indians of the North West Territories” on the reverse. These medals were rejected by Indigenous leaders because the silver plating wore off and they were considered too cheap for the meaning that they conveyed. This medal was replaced by a sterling silver Treaty medal with a new design.


Legacies of Confederation: Manitoba, a New Homeland

After Manitoba entered Confederation in 1870 and the Canadian government negotiated Treaty No. 1 with First Nations leaders, Canada began to actively engage potential immigrants to settle and farm the prairies. The first two groups that arrived in large numbers were English speaking Ontarians and German speaking Mennonites from eastern Ukraine. This first large wave of immigration to Manitoba would begin the irrevocable transformation of the environment and the economy of the province forever. The success of the Mennonites in particular may have helped open the door to other immigrants who did not speak English and had different religious backgrounds compared to the English Protestants and French Catholics who dominated political life in Canada. Icelandic, Jewish, Ukrainian and many immigrant groups from Eastern Europe began entering the province by the 1880s.

Our new exhibit “Legacies of Confederation” features a number of personalities, including William Hespeler (1830-1921) who played an incredibly important role in immigration from the 1870s to the 1890s. The exhibit features his Speaker’s Chair, used in the Manitoba Legislative Building between 1900 and 1903. In 1899 Hespeler entered provincial politics, winning the rural seat of Rosenfeld. In 1900 he was chosen as the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, which he held for three years before retiring. The carved wooden armchair was built for his position as Speaker and he retained it after he left politics. It has been handed down to generations of his descendants since he died in 1921. The chair was donated to the Manitoba Museum in 2016 by his great-great-grandson Michael Boultbee of Victoria, BC.

William Hespeler Speaker’s Chair, 1900, wood and leather. H9-38-512, copyright Manitoba Museum, photograph by Rob Barrow.

William Hespeler Speaker’s Chair, 1900, wood and leather. H9-38-512, copyright Manitoba Museum, photograph by Rob Barrow.


William Hespeler seated in the Speaker’s Chair, ca. 1903. Courtesy Jeremy Hespeler-Boultbee.

William Hespeler seated in the Speaker’s Chair, ca. 1903. Courtesy Jeremy Hespeler-Boultbee.


Detail of crest rail, including the seal of Manitoba (bison and English Cross of St. George) surmounted by a large crown. This symbolizes the power of the Speaker as an authority in the Legislative Assembly. H9-38-512, copyright Manitoba Museum, photography by Rob Barrow.

Detail of crest rail, including the seal of Manitoba (Bison and English Cross of St. George) surmounted by a large crown. This symbolizes the power of the Speaker as an authority in the Legislative Assembly and the role of Manitobans as subjects under the British crown. H9-38-512, copyright Manitoba Museum, photography by Rob Barrow.

Hespeler was born to a wealthy family in Baden, Germany and moved to Berlin, Canada West (that is, Kitchener, Ontario) in 1850. After business success in establishing mills and distilleries in Canada, he moved back to Baden with his sick wife Mary Keatchie in 1872.

In Baden, Hespeler was informed by the Canadian government that a large population of Mennonites had grown dissatisfied in their colonies in Ukraine. Many felt their religious freedoms were being threatened as a new schooling system and military service were enforced. Mennonites were looking to emigrate, and the Canadian government hoped they might migrate to farm the lands of southern Manitoba. Hespeler went to Ukraine and convinced Mennonite delegates to visit southeastern Manitoba in 1873, which led to the migration of 7000 Mennonites to Manitoba. Along with Anglo-Ontario settlers, this comprised the first wave of mass migration into the province. It would also set the stage for more waves of Mennonite migration to Canada in the 20th Century. Not only did Mennonite settlement in Manitoba help prove the viability of farming on the open prairie, it also had long term effects for Mennonite populations around the world, as they realized Canada could be a safe homeland.

After this success William Hespeler was appointed as dominion immigration agent for Manitoba and the North-West Territories. As such he assisted with the immigration of Icelanders, Germans and Jewish refugees. He planned the village of Niverville, establishing what might be Canada’s first grain elevator. He also managed the Manitoba Land Company, and acted as the German consul for Manitoba.

William Hespeler worked diligently to provide Manitoba with immigrant farmers after the province joined Confederation and Treaty No. 1 was signed in 1871. Since then Canada and Manitoba have had varying degrees of openness to immigrants and refugees, but certainly one of the legacies of Confederation for Manitoba is the creation of a society that largely welcomes and values the contributions of newcomers.


Bringing Our Stories Forward: Modern Immigration in Manitoba – by Rachel Erickson

Guest blog by Rachel Erickson, Assistant Curator

For the past four months, I’ve been working at the Manitoba Museum on a project about contemporary migration, just one part of the large capital renewal project Bringing Our Stories Forward. My project involves researching all aspects of migration to Manitoba; why do people come to Manitoba, and from where, what sort of policies have existed over the years that encourage (or discourage) migration, how have people settled in, and what sort of challenges might they face upon arrival. One of the aims of the project is to collect oral histories about modern migration to Manitoba, and potentially collect new objects that can be added to the museum’s collection, in order to paint a more inclusive picture of the diverse communities that now live in the province.

In August, I hosted a series of “pop-up museums” at three shopping centres in Winnipeg: Garden City, Polo Park, and Portage Place. I took out five museum objects (some with their own interesting migration histories), and set up a mini exhibition. We brought along an interactive activity that asked the public, “Do you have a migration story in your family?” and asked visitors to share stories about their decision to come to Manitoba, their journey here, and what it’s been like settling in.

A family tells their story at Garden City.

A family tells their story at Garden City.

Over the course of a few days, we heard stories from all over the world – Somalia, India, England, Trinidad, Philippines, Nigeria, Kosovo, you name it! Unsurprisingly, a fair number of “winter arrivals” expressed their horror at the cold weather and the copious amount of snow. One of these new arrivals found that learning to skate was the most effective Canadian initiation.

There are many reasons why people leave home – some move for a job, or the hope of better opportunity, others move for university and then decide to settle, some are uprooted by war or political strife, others find love, or move to be closer to family. No matter the reason for movement, the people we spoke with all had fascinating stories to share about settling in, finding their way in a new place, and ultimately, feeling at home in Canada. I can’t wait to hear more.

If you have a migration story that you’d like to share with the museum, please get in touch! You can contact Rachel Erickson at the museum at 204-988-0685.


Story board at Portage Place.

Story board at Portage Place.


A story by a newcomer from England.

A story by a woman from England who moved to Manitoba in 1980.



Terry Fox Exhibit: A Call for Artefacts

The Manitoba Museum is hosting the Canadian Museum of History national travelling exhibit “Terry Fox: Running to the Heart of Canada” exhibit, opening July 14, 2016. The exhibit features the incredible story of Terry Fox as he embarked on the Marathon of Hope in 1980 to raise funds for cancer research. The marathon, which so many Canadians remember through annual Terry Fox Runs, is memorialized by personal artefacts collected by Terry’s mother.

We’re asking Manitobans to help us find artefacts and memorabilia that may be tucked away around the province. If you have anything related to the early days of Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope, or if you have something from a Terry Fox Run that you think is special, please contact Roland Sawatzky, Curator of History  at [email protected]. We will potentially accept either loans or donations.

Plaster bust of Terry Fox by Leo Mol, dated to 1982, has been loaned by the Terry Fox Foundation (Manitoba Office) for the exhibit "Manitobans Remember Terry Fox".

Plaster bust of Terry Fox by Leo Mol, dated to 1982, has been loaned by the Terry Fox Foundation (Manitoba Office) for the exhibit “Manitobans Remember Terry Fox”.


A Strange Migration

Usually geese migrate from North to South and back again. Some goose decoys, however, migrated from Manitoba to British Columbia a hundred years ago, and have now come home to Manitoba again.

A goose decoy fully reconstructed. H9-38-380. Copyright The Manitoba Museum.

A goose decoy fully reconstructed. H9-38-380. Copyright The Manitoba Museum.

A woman from Victoria, British Columbia called some time ago wanting to donate a batch of goose decoys that had been in the possession of her father. Duck and goose decoys used for hunting are common enough items, but the photographs the donor showed me were unique. These decoys, which were said to have been made in Manitoba in the 1880s, were made from actual geese. Twelve body forms were adorned with goose feathers, and these were accompanied by twelve taxidermied heads. Twelve wooden stakes were also included, and these acted as both stands for the body forms and stakes for the heads. All of these materials were packed neatly in a woven cane structure surrounded by a custom made canvas bag. Printed on the bottom of the bag in large letters: “V. R. SUTHERLAND”.

Preserved goose heads, neatly arranged. The stakes  are in the top right hand corner. H9-38-380. Copyright The Manitoba Museum.

Preserved goose heads, neatly arranged. The stakes are in the top right hand corner. H9-38-380. Copyright The Manitoba Museum.


Underside of decoy body frame. H9-38-380. Copyright The Manitoba Museum.

Underside of decoy body frame. H9-38-380. Copyright The Manitoba Museum.

The more closely I looked at the items with my colleagues Dr. Randy Mooi (Curator of Zoology) and Dr. Diana Bizecki Robson (Curator of Botany), the more we learned. Six of the goose heads were Canada Geese, while six were White-Fronted, the latter species being common in western Manitoba. All the heads seem to have been treated with arsenic and some included glass eyes, both common taxidermy methods in the 1880s. The cane frame was made with common cattail. The bag itself is a thick canvas, with a zipper that is of 1930s or 1940s vintage. From this physical examination we can surmise that although the goose decoys themselves may date to 1880s Manitoba, the bag and cane frame probably date to about the 1940s.


So who was V.R. Sutherland? Victor Richard Sutherland (1893-1969) was born in Winnipeg to Roderick Ross Sutherland and Martha Anna Richardson. Roderick was a lawyer and the couple belonged to the upper class of Winnipeg at the time.  If the decoys were indeed made in the 1880s they likely belonged to Roderick, and certainly not Victor (who wasn’t born until 1893). The Sutherland family moved to Victoria, BC in 1912, which means the bag and cane frame were likely made there. Victor was a great friend of the donor’s father, G. Fitzpatrick Dunn, and it is believed Dunn received the decoys either from Victor or his wife Lucy in the 1960s or early 1970s.

The canvas bag containing a cattail frame, with enough room for all the components of all twelve decoys. H9-38-380. Copyright The Manitoba Museum.

The canvas bag containing a cattail frame, with enough room for all the components of all twelve decoys. H9-38-380. Copyright The Manitoba Museum.

Despite all of this rich historical background and physical examination by experts, we are still not entirely certain where these decoys were made or how old they are. Our best guess is built on stories married with facts. G. Fitzpatrick Dunn’s claim that the decoys were made in Manitoba in the 1880s is given weight because he was a good friend of the man who owned them and who would have provided this information. Another issue is that Canada Geese and White-fronted Geese are found throughout the western provinces, including the Pacific Coast region, so they could have been made in either of the places where the Sutherlands lived.


This is how curatorial investigation sometimes works – a lot of study, revision, and discussion, followed by a plausible but not quite definite explanation. Whatever the case, no one with whom we’ve spoken has ever seen goose decoys like these before. They are unique and look like they were custom made for an avid hunter with financial means. Contact us if you’ve ever seen anything resembling this!


Guest Blog – The Tupper Quilt and Canadian Confederation

By Kelly Burwash, Practicum student, Master of Arts in Cultural Studies/Curatorial Practices, University of Winnipeg

One of the great things about museums is that they can help foster relationships with (so-called) distant historical events. My placement at The Manitoba Museum involves doing research for an upcoming exhibition on the 150th anniversary of Confederation.

The Tupper Quilt was made ca. 1889 by Ada Tupper, daughter-in-law of Charles Tupper, one of the Fathers of Confederation. Photograph by Anne E. Dawson.

The Tupper Quilt was made ca. 1889 by Ada Tupper, daughter-in-law of Charles Tupper, one of the Fathers of Confederation. Photograph by Anne E. Dawson.

As a new resident of Manitoba, it has been especially interesting for me to research what Confederation means to the province’s unique context. Manitoba was, of course, not part of the original four provinces that became Canada on July 1, 1867. At the time, Canada consisted of Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Quebec. This does not mean that Manitoba was unaffected by actions in the East. During the discussions of the Quebec Conference leading up to Confederation, the politicians did not forget about this area. They decided future seats in the House of Commons would be set aside for the North West when it was brought in to Confederation. The politicians in the East thought that this would be an easy unification. Although this was not the case, the West was a part of Confederation in 1867 in conversation if not in result.

Another interesting part of my research on Confederation has been my examination of the Tupper Quilt. This quilt was almost certainly made in Winnipeg by Ada Tupper, daughter-in-law to Charles Tupper. Charles Tupper was briefly prime minister of Canada, as well as premier of Nova Scotia and one of the Fathers of Confederation. You might think, “What does this have to do with Manitoba? Why is this quilt here?”  I confess, I had the same initial thoughts. It turns out the Tupper family is firmly entrenched in Winnipeg history. James Stewart Tupper and William Johnston Tupper, two of Tupper’s sons, formed a law firm in Winnipeg with Hugh John MacDonald. Tupper’s son-in-law, Donald Cameron, was one of the chief commissioners for the Boundary Commission and lived in Dufferin while mapping the 49th parallel.

Charles Tupper himself came to Winnipeg in 1869 to secure the release ofluggage belonging to his daughter Anna and son-in-law Donald Cameron, which had been seized by the Red River Resistance. In order to get the luggage back, he met with Louis Riel who agreed to return their belongings. The pair parted on good terms. These are just some of the stories that are found on the crazy quilt. Each of the many symbols tells a different story. It has been fascinating to research and amazing to find all these local connections to Confederation.

The Tupper Quilt is on loan from a Private Collection. Contributing research done by Anne Dawson.