Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Our province needs a little birthday love, too

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There are now 142 candles on the imaginary cake, one for each year since the royal nod was given, and the province -- our province -- was born.

The date of the anniversary, May 12, is historic and that history bears an official title: Manitoba Day. But few Manitobans can pick it out of a lineup: In 2009, a survey found four per cent of us knew its relevance. If the fireworks of Canada Day are circled on many of our calendars, Manitoba Day slips by, for many, without much of a spark.

But then, there is this: a clutch of songs about frigid winters; the lines of Winnipeg drawn in swaths of ink; and the stories of the people who lived and laughed and died among the landmarks of the prairie.

To mark Manitoba Day tonight -- a few days in advance -- the Association for Manitoba Archives is hosting its sixth annual Manitoba Day Awards at 600 Shaftesbury Blvd., with an awards reception starting at 5 p.m.

Thirteen creations will be honoured at the event, 13 varied and modern musings on the province's past: from Weakerthans frontman John K. Samson's solo album, the aptly titled Provincial, to University of British Columbia Prof. Arthur J. Ray's book on landmark aboriginal rights cases.

What they have in common: All the honoured works, from paintings to books, drew on Manitoban archival collections. "The endless creativity with how people use archives always amazes us," said Diane Haglund, the archives advisor for the Association for Manitoba Archives.

In her work, Haglund spends her days helping organizations compile their own historical collections. Amongst the dust of years, she knows, there is always a fresh surprise: a stack of photos in a family attic that yields clues to the birth of a small Manitoba town, for instance. Or an ancient box of records, stashed in a forgotten basement, that bears the imprints of the province's founding families.

The AMA awards are not the only event drawing awareness to the province's birthday, of course. At a private event today, Lt.-Gov. Philip Lee will honour Manitobans with an award for promoting and preserving history. And museums across Manitoba are throwing open their doors on Saturday to celebrate their collections with special events and unveilings.

But historical awareness can't be built in a day... not enough of it, anyway. For more Manitobans to know and embrace Manitoba Day, Haglund mused, there must be a renewed focus on education -- in any of its forms. "One of the real challenges is how do we harness the past to the current technology?" she said. "It's a huge challenge, but if we can do that successfully, we will engage. There's so many opportunities now... regrettably, the development of those and the preparation of the material takes a lot of time and a lot of money."

 

melissa.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Manitoba Day activities

All over Manitoba, museums are opening their doors to celebrate Manitoba's birthday. Here, just a smattering of some of the events on offer for the historic holiday:

 

Manitoba Museum: Free admission to the galleries and planetarium, plus a foray into the world of famous Manitobans.

 

Manitoba Genealogical Society: Open house at 1045 St. James Street features a resource centre tour and advice in tracking down family histories.

 

 

Western Canada Aviation Museum: Fit For Flight guided tour showcases made-in-Manitoba aviation innovations.

 

Transcona Historical Museum: Hands-on archeology workshop for families between 1 and 4 p.m.

 

New Iceland Heritage Museum, Gimli: Free admission and a talk by Johanne Kristjanson on the evolution of Manitoba.

 

Manitoba Agricultural Museum, Austin: Free admission and loads of family-friendly activities, including a picnic, horseshoe tournament and more.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 10, 2012 A9

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