You've heard and been to perennial favourites like the Manitoba Museum and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights - but what about the smaller museums that tell the lesser-known stories of our province's history? We have 5 museums that you've (probably) never heard of, but should absolutely add to your list!
1. Transcona Historical Museum
141 Regent Avenue West, Winnipeg
Go for: Retro textiles
Standing stoically at the corner of Regent and Bond Avenue, the Transcona Museum attracts visitors with its stunning curb appeal. The handsome brown-brick heritage building with ornate limestone features was built in 1925 by the Bank of Toronto, then became the Transcona Municipal Office before being the permanent home for the Transcona Museum in 1983.
For its 50th anniversary this year, the museum’s main gallery is showcasing Textiles of Transcona, displays of clothing that speak to the community’s identity throughout the last century, from a blue satin softball uniform worn by the local ladies league in the 1920-30s to the pink flamingo-themed beachwear of the 1980s. As a nod to the town’s railways roots, the museum proudly promotes the preservation of CN 2747, the first steam engine built by the Canadian National Railroad shops in Transcona circa 1926. The magnificent steel giant is on display in a park off nearby Plessis Road, a short drive from the museum.
2. Grant's Old Mill
2777 Portage Avenue, Winnipeg
Go for: A real working flour mill
Who was Cuthbert Grant? While Louis Riel normally comes to mind for famous Métis leaders, Grant was actually the first, rising to prominence nearly a full generation before Riel. Grant led the Métis to victory in the battle of Seven Oaks, a violent clash which saw the conflict between the fur trading North West Company and Hudson's Bay Company come to a head.
Grant's Old Mill is a replica of a different endeavor of Cuthbert Grant - a flour mill built in 1829 to help feed his people. While the exterior watermill is currently not in operation, you can still see the process in which grains are milled into flour - and get a lovely photo of the structure from the surrounding park's walkway.
3. Winnipeg Police Museum
245 Smith Street, Winnipeg
Go for: The hovercraft
It may seem strange that a (mostly) landlocked city like ours would warrant the use of a water hovercraft - but that's also likely why the police abandoned the experiment in 1972. That fun fact is only one of the many tidbits of knowledge you can find at the Winnipeg Police Museum, housed inside the police headquarters in the city's downtown. You'll also find a real life jail cell, actual pieces of rope used in hangings, and vintage uniforms.
4. Fire Fighter's Museum of Winnipeg
56 Maple Street, Winnipeg
Go for: Vintage firetrucks
Enter the old fire hall built in 1904 for a walk through time in Winnipeg's fire fighting past. The Fire Fighter's Museum pays tribute to heroes of days past (all the way back to 1882) and shows how a real-life fire hall once operated. The highlights in this museum are definitely the vintage firetrucks, sure to delight the budding future fire fighter in your family, while also serving up some old school charm that adults appreciate too. And don't leave without checking out the 1900 horse drawn hose wagon, the 1870 hand drawn hose reels and the 1880 hand drawn chemical wagon - reminders of how fire fighting has evolved to the present day!
5. The Historical Museum of St. James Assiniboia
3180 Portage Avenue, Winnipeg
Go for: Two-storey Red River home
Driving down Portage Avenue, it's quite likely that you've passed the Historical Museum of St. James-Assiniboia without even noticing its historical significance. The museum is actually comprised of three buildings: the historic Municipal Government Hall (which is full of super interesting vignettes and displays), the Wiliam Brown house.
Step into the Red River Frame log house and step back into the mid 1800's, when settlers situated themselves along the banks of the Assiniboine River. The home was relocated to the museum in 1970, and is now open to those wishing to get a glimpse into family life from days past. Admire chic decor and try to imagine yourself living the life of a pioneer as you wander through the multi-level home.