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In accordance with a resolution adopted by the Council of the Manitoba Historical Society (MHS) in April 2023, a Prairie History Endowment Fund has been created at The Winnipeg Foundation as a separate trust under the MHS Agency Fund with an initial contribution of $10,000.

The primary goal of this endowment is to sustain the publication of Prairie History magazine because it advances all aspects of the Society’s mandate—public education, research, celebration, communication and advocacy. Just as important, MHS wishes to assure that future generations have the opportunity and financial capacity to continue telling stories about the past. By pooling community gifts and creating a sustainable funding base for Prairie History, MHS hopes to establish a legacy to help celebrate our 150th anniversary in 2029 as Western Canada’s oldest historical society.

The Prairie History Endowment Fund will generate an annual payment in April of each year to help defray design, printing, distribution and other costs associated with the publication of Prairie History. The terms of reference for this endowment provide that at least 10% of the annual grant shall be allocated at the discretion of the Editorial Board to the promotion of young historians or the publication of research by graduate university students.

There shall be a progress report included on the agenda of future AGMs with the final report concluding this endowment building campaign coinciding with the MHS 150th anniversary in 2029. The financial goal or key milestone for measuring success is $600,000 over the six-year period because that level of contributed capital will generate sufficient annual income to pay current costs. As an aspiration, the dream would be a 150th anniversary annuity of $1.5 million.

All donations to the Prairie History Endowment Fund will be acknowledged with appreciation and will generate an official charitable receipt for income tax purposes issued by either The Winnipeg Foundation or MHS.

Beginning in 2024, those who make a leadership contribution to this endowment building effort will be publicly acknowledged in each issue of Prairie History. Recognition will take into account cumulative gifts if a donor contributes over several years and, with permission, will list those reaching one of the following thresholds: $1000 (Bronze); $3000 (Silver); $6000 (Gold) $10,000 (Platinum), and $35,000 (Patron).

The MHS Council names Richard Frost as Chair of the endowment building effort with authority to gather a circle of advisors who together may promote the Prairie History Endowment Fund in accordance with this mandate. The Chair will have access to any budget or management information related to the publication and distribution of Prairie History. In the normal course of promoting the endowment, the Chair may have opportunity to sell advertising and has full authority to do so. The Chair will also, as opportunities allow, present information and coordinate activities with the broader MHS program agenda. MHS agrees that it will not make decisions related to Prairie History without giving some advance notice to the Chair. The Chair serves at the pleasure of the Council.

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collage of endangered historical structures around manitoba

For several years, the National Trust for Canada identified buildings  and other structures around the country that were deemed to be at risk  “due to neglect, lack of funding, inappropriate development or weak  legislation.” Not surprisingly, most of its identified structures were  in Ontario or other heavily populated provinces. However, in 2019, two  items made in Manitoba made it to their list.

The MHS has been active for over a dozen years in tracking  historically-significant buildings around Manitoba. We were inspired to produce our own list of endangered structures around Manitoba. We  started with the National Trust’s two buildings and added seven more,  plus a rare, old bridge, to offer a top-10 endangered structures in Manitoba. Our list was announced on 6 July 2019 for Canada Historic  Places Day and it consisted, in chronological order, of:

  1. York Factory Depot Building (1831-1838, Northern Manitoba)
  2. Kennedy House (1866-1870, RM of St. Andrews)
  3. Elva Grain Elevator (1897, RM of Two Borders)
  4. Leary Brickworks (1901, RM of Lorne)
  5. Rapid City Consolidated School (1902, RM of Oakview)
  6. Ninette Sanatorium (1909, RM of Prairie Lakes)
  7. A. E. McKenzie Building (1910, Ninth Street, Brandon)
  8. Rubin Block (1914, Morley Avenue, Winnipeg)
  9. Turtle River Bowstring Bridge (1921, RM of Ste. Rose)
  10. Birtle Residential School (1930, RM of Prairie View)

In 2020, we added another ten structures:

  1. Fairbanks House (1881, Emerson)
  2. Masonic Temple (1895, Donald Street, Winnipeg)
  3. Flat Grain Warehouse (1902, Brookdale, Mun. of North Cypress-Langford)
  4. First Baptist Church (1904, Lorne Avenue, Brandon)
  5. Gordon House (1909, Wellington Crescent, Winnipeg)
  6. International Harvester Building (1911, Pacific Avenue, Brandon)
  7. Tree Planting Car (1920, RM of Reynolds)
  8. Mallard Lodge (1932, RM of Portage la Prairie)
  9. St. Vladimir’s College (1941, Roblin, Municipality of Roblin)
  10. Manitoba Pool Grain Elevator (1948, Tyndall, RM of Brokenhead)

Ten more were added in 2021:

  1. Bathgate Block (1883, Princess Street, Winnipeg)
  2. CNR station (1908, Fisher Avenue East, Portage la Prairie)
  3. Holmfield Concrete Bridge (1925, RM of Killarney-Turtle Mountain)
  4. Hudson’s Bay Company Building (Portage la Prairie, Winnipeg)
  5. Telephone Exchange Building (1930, Seventh Avenue South, Virden)
  6. CKX Radio Building (1941, Eighth Street, Brandon)
  7. Port Staff House (1950, Churchill)
  8. Manitoba Pool Grain Elevator (1951, Homewood, RM of Dufferin)
  9. L9 Building (1955, Churchill)
  10. Fallout Reporting Post KE4 (1962, Southeastern Manitoba)

Finally, 2022 saw another ten structures added:

  1. Small cemeteries of southern Manitoba (1870s onward)
  2. Manitoba Development Centre (1890, Third Street NE, Portage la Prairie)
  3. Salvation Army Citadel (1901, Rupert Avenue, Winnipeg)
  4. CPR North Transcona Grain Elevator (1912, RM of Springfield)
  5. Whetter Barn (1918, Municipality of Grassland)
  6. Valleyview Building (1941, First Street, Brandon)
  7. Transcona Winter Vault (1932, RM of Springfield)
  8. Winnipeg Fire Hall No. 9 (1957, Marion Street, Winnipeg)
  9. MS River Rouge (1967, Selkirk)
  10. Swistun Budda (1978, Municipality of Harrison Park)

Inevitably, there will not be a happy ending for some of the structures  on our top-10 lists of the past four years. So far, five of them are now  gone:

  • Elva Grain Elevator – destroyed by fire (April 2022)
  • Gordon House – demolished (November 2020)
  • Tyndall Grain Elevator – demolished (May 2022)
  • Holmfield Concrete Bridge – demolished (November 2022)
  • Homewood Grain Elevator – demolished (August 2021)

On the other hand, there have been at least two successes. The Flat Grain Warehouse at Brookdale and the Tree Planting Car in the Sandilands were moved to the grounds of the Manitoba Agricultural Museum where they will be protected and enjoyed for years to come.

This year, the MHS top-10 list of endangered structures will be announced on 15 July 2023. Watch for it in this blog.

Suggestions for future lists are welcome and should be sent to me at gordon@mhs.mb.ca.

Gordon

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old website masthead with coat of arms and "Welcome" title

The new MHS website, created for us by Relish New Brand Experience, launches today at https://mhs.ca. It features a fresh new look and works well on what device you are using, whether it’s a computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Keep informed on MHS events, programs, activities, and research. Subscribe to our journal Prairie History. Donate and help us to sustain Western Canada’s oldest organization devoted to preservation and promotion of history. Browse our archive of thousands of pages of information on all facets of Manitoba history.

When our website launched in late 1998, it was one of the earliest historical websites on the newly established Internet. You can see what it looked like in the Internet Archive. (https://web.archive.org/web/19981206175228/http://www.mhs.mb.ca) Complete with cheesy fonts and animated graphics, it was not much more than an online brochure for the MHS, telling the world a little bit about what we did. It provided no historical information. That would come years later.

Jump ahead to 2002. I had joined the MHS Council and, being somewhat technologically capable, I was asked to become the Webmaster. I saw a real opportunity to expand the website so, in March 2002, I presented a detailed proposal to the Council for a complete revamp.

The new website would have five main areas. The first would be the “home page” where visitors would arrive when they typed our address (www.mhs.mb.ca) into their browser. It would provide basic information about the MHS and provide links to the other areas. The “news” area would contain frequently updated general information, including newsletters, links to other website pertinent to Manitoba history, exhibits and other special features of short duration, and could eventually have historical quizzes, questionnaires, and historical news. The “info” area could contain less frequently updated information on such topics as the MHS mission statement, contact information for MHS volunteers and staff, lists of committees, fundraising, descriptions of our publication (not the actual contents), information on award programs, and slow-refresh materials such as helpful hints for Manitoba tourists, a virtual tour of the MHS’ flagship museum, Dalnavert, and a Manitoba historical timeline. The fifth “docs” area would contain digital versions of our printed documents, including back issues of our very first one starting in the 1880s, the MHS Transactions, and carrying on to Manitoba Pageant, and Manitoba History. It would also contain “born digital content” (that is, having no counterpart in the physical world) such as historical articles, finding aids, and commentaries. Looking back on it now, I am surprised at how faithfully the first versions of the website hewed to that basic specification.

The realities and limitations of the Internet did constrain things somewhat. For example, in those days, there were no Content Management Systems (CMSs) such as WordPress (used in our new website) to do sophisticated formatting of text and graphics. The entire website was written in HyperText Markup Language (HTML). There was, however, a technology called Server Side Includes (SSI) that made it easier to have a consistent look-and-feel to the website, and that allowed us to make a single change that would affect the entire website. See this version here. (https://web.archive.org/web/20030216004230/http://mhs.mb.ca)

One of the first things we began to do with the website was to add digital content. We received grants to hire students to scan each page of each publication, then use Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software to convert the scan into editable text. The quality of that early OCR software was terrible with the result that it introduced all kinds of misspellings into the text. We fixed most of them through the ensuing years but, occasionally, we find one here and there. Our old publications contained lots of great information that was available nowhere else. But they were nearly impossible to read unless you had access to bound copies in academic libraries. Now, being online (and, even more valuably, searchable by AltaVista and other search engines of the time – Google was still years in the future), they could enjoy a whole new level of usefulness.

The next major advance in development of the MHS website came as the contents of our publications began to appear online. In many cases, the authors of those publications were long gone. Yet, I thought they had made significant contributions to our understanding of Manitoba history. Shouldn’t we remember them in some way? I started putting together brief biographies of such early MHS authors and volunteers, people like George Bryce (1844-1931), Charles Napier Bell (1854-1936), and David Stewart (1874-1937). Initially, there was just a tiny collection of biographies but, as it grew, it became increasingly comprehensive and useful. It needed a name. One day, as my mind wandered during a snowmobile ride across Lake Manitoba, it came to me: Memorable Manitobans. I’ve always been a fan of alliteration; maybe it has something to do with my name? I liked “Memorable” because it did not imply any judgement about the people included. Some of them might be real scoundrels, yet remembering them could serve as a valuable lesson of what NOT to do.

Today, the website comprises over 30,000 individual pages of information with vast numbers of cross-references between pages. So, for example, one can start with a Memorable Manitoban and click on links to places they lived and worked, and learn about the history of communities, businesses, organizations, and lots more. Unfortunately, the website was limited by the technology used to create it 21 years ago. If someone complains that the website looks like something from the 2000s, there’s a good reason. Changing it will be a long-term project, due to the large number of files that must be converted. I expect it will take years.

But every journey starts with a first step, and our beautiful new website is that step. It provides all the front-facing aspects of the MHS, presenting us to the world in ways that will hopefully entice you to support us. It will automate functions, such as processing of new memberships and renewals, that have previously consumed far too much time for our busy office staff. It enables us to share stories such as this one, in what we hope will be an engaging and informative way. Most importantly, I think, the website works on whatever device you use, no matter how large or small. Whether you are viewing it from the comfort of your home or on a smartphone carried outdoors, the MHS will be there, ready to share information about this great province of Manitoba.

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