I grew up in Paris, so I love museums. I have visited hundreds all over the world, Of all kinds and sizes. Going to the museum is really a normal activity for me to do while traveling… or in my own city actually! The Manitoba Museum is a must-see in Winnipeg.
My first visit to the Manitoba Museum happened five years ago during my first year in Canada and it left a strange impression on me. I found the collections a bit outdated, not very interactive, with somewhat obsolete panels and a lot of scenography needed updating. When I came back in 2019, I could see the changes and renovations that had been done. Two other galleries were redone after my visit and more are planned, one to celebrate Manitoba’s 150th anniversary and one about the Prairie habitat. I can’t wait to go back to the Manitoba Museum!
What will you find at the Manitoba Museum?
The oldest rock in the world was found in Canada, in the Northwest Territories, on an island 300 km north of Yellowknife (really at the end of the world). This rock, the Acasta Gneiss, is between 3.96 and 4.03 billion years old. It’s impressive to see that, it’s such a silly stone but it can make you dizzy. It was my favorite piece in this gallery of the museum.
Near the kind of bridge on the ground in the photo above, there was a graphic that explained the different layers under the ground and the minerals. In the Manitoba Museum, we are constantly walking on 2.5 billion years of sediment.
Otherwise, the Manitoba Museum has a beautiful collection of fossils, especially marine animals, because all of Southern Manitoba used to be a lake. The world’s largest mosasaurus (a sort of Marine T-rex) was found just outside of Winnipeg and can be seen at the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre in Morden – this visit must be on any Manitoban bucket list.
When entering the Manitoba Museum you are greeted with bison, of course. As the provincial animal of Manitoba, the bison is everywhere: on the Manitoba flag, on the coat of arms, on road signs. We do learn in the museum, however, that the bison herds have been decimated in North America: there were between 20 and 30 million bison in the wild until 1889, when there were only exactly 1,091 left…
Luckily, it is possible to see them today in semi-freedom, in Riding Mountain Park for example or in Yellowstone in the United States. We also have a herd right in the center of Winnipeg in Fort Whyte Alive.
Some history of the Hudson Bay’s Company
This name may not be unfamiliar to you:
– either you saw it in British history class
– or you saw it on storefronts all across Canada and shopped there
– or you read my article on Lower Fort Garry, the fort where the fur trade took place in Manitoba.
The Manitoba Museum has a huge collection of artifacts that were traded, some furs, but lots of manufactured goods.
But if you mention the Manitoba Museum to a Winnipegger, they’ll only tell you about one thing: the NonSuch boat. This boat is extremely important as a provincial symbol, as much as the bison and the Jets hockey team.
The NonSuch is the boat that sailed in 1668-1669 between England and Hudson’s Bay and ultimately opened up trade with this remote part of Canada. The replica at the Manitoba Museum was renovated in 2018.
Some Indigenous Art
Aboriginal art dots the halls of the Manitoba Museum. Unfortunately, I was not able to spend much time in the gallery about the Métis and the settlers, as well as the heritage of the Voyageurs because even if we stayed for three hours in the museum, we were able to dwell on the contents of six galleries out of nine only!
The geometric alphabet used to transcribe Indigenous languages is fascinating for the language teacher that I used. If you want to see the Latin alphabet equivalents, Wikipedia has a summary table!
These stone constructions, the Inukshuit, have become symbols of the North of Canada. In fact, they were used by caribou hunters to control the movement of the herd they were hunting.
I didn’t have time to linger in the Museum’s Urban gallery, which recreates a city in 1920. I will in a future visit.
By the way, the Manitoba Museum also has a planetarium and a science gallery!
Practical information about the Manitoba Museum
- Location: The Manitoba Museum is located on Main Street, a short walk away from the Exchange district and Downtown Winnipeg.
- Cost: In 2021, entrance is $15.75 including taxes for an adult and $9.45 for a child for the Museum part. Combined tickets for the museum, planetarium and science gallery are available as well as yearly passes.
- Hours: The Manitoba Museum is currently open from Thursdays to Sundays from 11 am to 5 pm.
- Visiting: Allow a minimum of three hours and you won’t even have read and seen everything! There are lockers available.
- Parking: There is not designated parking at the Manitoba Museum but there is a parking lot just across the street.
Have you ever visited the Manitoba Museum? What is your favourite section of the Museum?
More posts about things to do in Winnipeg?
– the Canadian Museum for Human Rights
– the Manitoba Electrical Museum
– the Cement Cemetery
– the St-Boniface Museum
– Back Alley Arctic, polar street-art
– the Manitoba Museum
– Winterlude, an ice-carving competition
– all the museums in Winnipeg
– the West End Murals