Rural museums and archives are often the sole preservers local heritage. In the following blog post, Al Thorleifson describes the ongoing project between the Pembina Manitou Archive and the Boundary Trail National Heritage Region Board to build archival awareness within the Southern Manitoba museum community.
Over the past two years, the Pembina Manitou Archive has partnered with the Boundary Trail National Heritage Region Board to build awareness of archives and to encourage archival preservation in our Southern Manitoba museum and archive community.
There are over twenty small community museums in the BTNHR, some focused on architectural heritage and some focused on settlement period agriculture. In every case, these small museums have been the recipients of documents, photographs, letters and other archival material which, to a large extent, have been sitting in a back room gathering dust. Why is this? Usually, it is because a document does not work with the average museum’s display of artifacts. As well, most visitors do not visit a museum to sit and read a document for an hour – the average museum visitor spends an hour touring the entire museum and then is off to other sites on their tour of the district.
The PMA/BTNHR Partnerships with Museums Projects have four major purposes:
- To create reports which are shared with participating museums. Each report focuses on the collection of a specific museum, highlighting some aspect of their collection. The purpose is to encourage museums to be aware of the collections of other regional museums and to encourage information sharing to promote each others’ collections.
- To encourage local museums to continue the process of accessing and preserving their archival collections.
- To encourage each museum to consider whether there are archival documents in their collection which would provide background information in support of their museum displays. Once these documents are identified by the museum, the Pembina Manitou Archive undertakes the digitization and the documents are uploaded to the PMA web site. The reports thus contain lists of documents from each partner community which have been added to the Pembina Manitou Archive’s web site.
- The final goal is to encourage those interested in heritage and history to make use of the digital archive, especially in this COVID time when we are unable to access archives in person. As well, our most fervent supporters are those whose ancestors lived in the communities of Southern Manitoba. No matter where they currently live, they have access to primary documents about their ancestral communities from the comfort of their own homes anywhere in the world.
Anyone interested in reviewing these monograph reports may do so by searching ‘Partnerships with Museums’ on the Pembina Manitou Archive web site at https://pembinamanitouarchive.ca .
The Pembina Manitou archive is an open access web site which originally started as an online source of information for school students to provide them with access to primary archival documents concerning their community for use in school research projects. The archive has grown over the past decade to include over 53,000 documents.