Conservation Treatment of the First Winnipeg City Council Minutes, 1874-1875

29 Mar 2023 7:50 PM | Digital Initiatives, AMA (Administrator)

The following comes from Sarah Ramsden of the City of Winnipeg Archives

With financial assistance from the Heritage Grants Program (Province of Manitoba), the City of Winnipeg Archives worked with Conservator Jane Dalley to treat the first Winnipeg City Council Minutes. This project involved treating the City’s first Minute Book, its index, as well as the rough minutes of the first Council meeting that were recorded and stored separately.

All of these records showed various signs of deterioration, were extremely fragile, and could not be handled without risking further damage. More specifically, the book bindings were damaged; the leather binding on the Minute Book had red rot; there were loose pages, and the rough minutes of the first Council meeting were crumbling. Because of their fragility, staff restricted access to these records years ago, offering researchers microfilm copies as an alternative. However, without being able to read the rough minutes of the first Council meeting, which were in pieces, their precise contents remained a mystery.

During treatment, the records were cleaned, stabilized, and agents of deterioration were removed. The work involved repairing the bindings and tears, targeting the red rot, dry-cleaning pages, reinforcing the most damaged pages and sections with Japanese tissue, and re-assembling loose fragments of paper using a light table.

The results were astounding. In addition to extending their life, the treatment has increased the artefactual value of these records, restored them to a condition where they can be handled safely by staff, and recovered missing information. Once reassembled, we learned the “rough minutes” of the first Council meeting were original copies of resolutions tabled at the meeting, as opposed to a complete set of minutes. Thankfully, the minutes of the first Council meeting are recorded elsewhere.

It is exciting to say that, in advance of Winnipeg’s 150th anniversary in 2024, staff can remove the access restrictions to the first City Council Minutes. To aid in their preservation, however, staff will continue to reduce the amount of handling, encouraging users to use digitized copies and transcriptions of the first Council Minute Book, which are currently available on our website Winnipeg in Focus – see:

The City of Winnipeg Archives gratefully acknowledges:

  • Jane Dalley, Director of Jane Dalley Heritage Consulting, for all conservation work
  • Province of Manitoba for its financial support of the project

Submitted by Sarah Ramsden, Archivist, City of Winnipeg Archives, with contributions from Jane Dalley

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