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Ship ahoy! Nonsuch Gallery reopens to rave reviews

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 9/6/2018 (755 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Former Nonsuch crew member Sam Richards will always keep a weather eye out for the little ship that was known for starting the fur trade in the 17th century and for helping to launch the Hudson’s Bay Company.

Richards and fellow former crew members Keith Duffield of Edmonton and Bob Hunter of Cobourg, Ont., were guests along with a crowd of schoolchildren, politicians and Manitoba Museum officials Friday for the re-opening of the Nonsuch Gallery, after a three-year project to refurbish it and reimagine its storyline.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Dignitaries gather to officially open the Nonsuch gallery at the Manitoba Museum in Winnipeg on Wednesday, June 6, 2018.</p>

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Dignitaries gather to officially open the Nonsuch gallery at the Manitoba Museum in Winnipeg on Wednesday, June 6, 2018.

"I’m on the river, just in case she sails by. So I can be ready to hop aboard!" laughed Richards, 68, a Winnipegger who was just 20 when he joined the crew to sail three seasons, 1970-72, aboard the museum’s Nonsuch — a replica of the original ship that set out to explore the New World in 1668.

The construction of the replica was commissioned by the HBC to celebrate its 300th anniversary. She was permanently placed in the Manitoba Museum as HBC’s gift for Manitoba’s 100th anniversary and the walls were built around her.

"I love that she’s here. It’s a legacy. There’s so much beauty in this ship and you can fully see it here," Richards said.

The Nonsuch Gallery, which has been the museum’s crown jewel since the exhibit originally opened in 1974, is the first of four galleries to be renewed as part of the museum’s $17.5-million Bringing Our Stories Forward capital campaign.

Indeed, with newly rigged sails set to give them the appearance of drying out after a long journey, the Nonsuch looks as though she could sail off into the sunset and pick up Richards, Duffield and Hunter on the way.

Amelia Fay, the Hudson Bay Company collection curator who led the renewal project, said few changes were made to the ship herself.

Visitors will notice many upgrades to exhibits around the ship, such as a nautical balcony dedicated to HBC exploration, a revamped boreal forest corridor featuring more than 700 specimens of insects and fur-bearing mammals and an oral history of first contact between explorers and the Cree people told by elder Louis Bird.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>The Nonsuch gallery brings Manitoba’s story forward.</p>

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

The Nonsuch gallery brings Manitoba’s story forward.

"When I come in the gallery, I almost tear up. I’m just so proud of everything we’ve done," said Fay, who was joined in unveiling the exhibit by museum CEO Claudette Leclerc, museum board chairman Scott Craig, fundraising campaign chairman Jeoff Chipman, MP Dan Vandal and Premier Brian Pallister.

"I saw the little kids coming in already and I’m just so hopeful that people really take the time to explore and embrace. I hope they’re just wowed," Fay said. "It’s the same gallery they’ve always loved and we’ve just pumped her up a little bit. I hope they take away that this is an important part of Canada’s history and this ship is just a beautiful piece in the gallery. I hope they embrace it and love it the same way we do here at the museum."

What the Nonsuch has been doing lately is a key piece of her new storyline in the renovated exhibit.

The story begins in the fall of 1669; the ship has just returned from her successful trading venture to Hudson’s Bay (the former storyline had her about to set sail in the previous year) and has arrived back in Deptford, England. She has returned with furs and traded goods and her crew is sharing tales of the journey that can be heard in one of three new 17-minute soundscapes that captures the sounds of a day in Deptford.

"I feel like I’m on the sea!" said Janique Curé, a Grade 3 student from École St. Malo as she walked around the Nonsuch’s deck. She and her St. Malo classmates were among the first groups of students to tour the exhibit.

Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press</p><p>Janique Curé, nine, explores the Nonsuch gallery on opening day at the Manitoba Museum.</p>

Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press

Janique Curé, nine, explores the Nonsuch gallery on opening day at the Manitoba Museum.

"It’s just very cool," said Troy Geiler, 10, a Grade 4 École St. Malo student. He said it was his first time aboard the ship.

His mom, Charlene, a parent volunteer, said it was the students’ lucky day, as the school had booked its trip to the museum months ago.

"We were so excited when we found our day was the day it was reopening," she said. "It’s been so great for them."

Vandal said the exhibit is a point-in-time marker of Canadian history.

"It tells the very important story of our fur-trading history and the early relationship between Indigenous peoples and the Hudson’s Bay Company," Vandal said.

Chipman said the Nonsuch is "the anchor" for the museum’s renewal project. The next refurbished gallery, the Winnipeg Gallery, is expected to open in the fall of 2019.

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

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