By Anne Davison
A fly on the wall would likely hear comments like ‘Wow! Do you remember…’ and ‘My Grandpa told me about…’ and ‘I never knew that!’ when visitors come to the Miniota Municipal Museum. The museum is open to the public once again after being on hold due to health restrictions for a couple of years.
Miniota’s museum is operated by a group of seniors who volunteer their time. It’s a treasure for history buffs and seniors. The items displayed here bring to mind days past and the people who broke the ground.
For instance, on the second floor you can find an entire miniature of the historic village of Miniota.
Ever heard of Dr. Chalmers and Granny Taylor? Did you know Crandall had a uniformed ball team?
Museum treasurer Kay Lelond is involved in booking appointments and giving tours. She finds there’s also a strong interest among children, a fascination with items that bear the imprint of generations past.
“My grandchildren just love to go to the museum,” says Lelond adding, “And the day camp come every summer.”
During the school year, teachers bring classes, often to round out pioneer themes they are teaching.
This summer she says there have also been tours with people who are passing through on Highway 83.
Since 2012 the museum has been archiving a list of obituaries from the municipality they often help families who are searching for information about their ancestors. Recently they assisted Thos. Copland’s, Wm. Aylward’s, Anders and Adelena Lawson’s and Charles W. Thomson’s families in their search.
Miniota museum has been contacted by other museums who are trying to trace histories of people, places and things - most recently from each end of Canada - New Brunswick and B.C.
Volunteers, mainly the museum’s board of directors, worked a total of 168 hours last year and took advantage of the mandated closure to complete some maintenance and renewal, like painting, cleaning and paving projects.
The current board consists of President Kevin Lelond, Secretary Darcy Rollo, Treasurer Kay Lelond, board members Laurie Copet, Bill Armitage, Barry Cornish and Marlene Bryant.
Kay explains, “We hire a caretaker for the grass cutting/trimming, but all other work is by volunteers.”
In order to write this account, the Empire-Advance was lucky enough to stop into the museum on a weekday and find Bill Armitage tidying up the grounds ahead of the mower. He agreed to show us the interior of the house.
A newly laid brick sidewalk led to a new stone patio at the entrance and a tether stone, a weird looking largish rock with a groove, perfectly suited to tying your steed – tether style.
This museum was established in 1976 in the former Municipal office. As the collection grew, more space was needed and the former Watts home was purchased. The building needed repair and renovation. With hard work, tremendous community support and a Community Places grant, the museum opened in its new home on July 1, 1993.
Since then, new windows have been installed in the main building. Insulation has been added and the heating and plumbing have been modernized. Other buildings have been upgraded to serve as an office and to house agricultural displays.
The history of each donated piece is catalogued digitally, giving staff the ability to search the collection.
Funding for the museum includes grants from the RM of Prairieview and Manitoba Museums as well as Miniota-Arrow River Donor’s Choice and individual donations. As it depends largely on volunteer support, the museum board says, “We always welcome any person who could help us out with our regular maintenance or assist with tours.”
Lelond has noticed a renewed interest in the community museum. She says, “I think COVID has maybe made people a little more aware of its value.”
Visitors can make an appointment for a tour (204-567-3890), or plan to drop in on a Saturday afternoon between 2-4 pm