Visit this blog for regular posts about Your Archives: The Histories We Share throughout 2020. Visit the Archives of Manitoba to see the records in person.

April 2021:

April 30, 2021

Letter from Louis Riel to his wife, Marguerite Riel, written from the jail in Regina, October 5, 1885 – Submitted by Brian Hubner, Archivist at the University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections


“Louis Riel is perhaps the ultimate Manitoban and the most tragic figure in Canadian history, in addition to being an iconic figure especially of Métis and Indigenous people. This is one letter, among many other writings, which he sent to his family in the weeks before his execution on Nov. 16th, 1885. The letter clearly shows: “… a touching concern for all members of his family.”1 He enquires about the health of his wife and asks her to send his regards to their brothers and sisters, brothers-in-law and sister-in-law, her father and his mother and others. Most touching he asks her to kiss their two children for him. His powerful religious faith is on display as he wishes Marguerite to have the children pray for God to give her strength. In his poetic and vivid imagination Riel has a vision of the Holy Virgin keeping the hangman’s rope away from him and hoping in the end she will save him from his fate.



“In 1995, this letter was purchased, at auction, by the then Provincial Archives of Manitoba. The Archives had the foresight to preserve this important part of the heritage of all Manitobans, and Canadians, further enriching our understanding of this important part of our past.”


References:
  1. ^ George F.G. Stanley, ed., The Collected Writings of Louis Riel, Vol. 3, (Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 1985), p. xlvi.


Want to know more? Search Keystone for more information. You can also Visit Us in person at the Archives of Manitoba.

Want to participate in Your Archives? See Submit Your Story for details. You may e-mail us at yourarchives@gov.mb.ca with a comment about this blog post and your comments may be included on this page.


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April 16, 2021

Photograph of Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) employees in the air raid shelter located in the sub-basement of Beaver House, the HBC’s Head Office, 1941 – Submitted by Anne Morton, Archivist at the Archives of Manitoba, 1981-2006, for most of that time with the Hudson’s Bay Company Archives


“This is one of 7 photographs published in The Beaver (December 1941, pp. 56-58) as part of the article ‘London Letter’, dated October 6, 1941.1 The other photos show the ruins of nearby buildings and the bunks in the air raid shelter for employees who volunteered for night-time ‘fire watching’ [watching out for incendiary bombs]. One of these volunteers, Alice Johnson, was to be the HBC’s Archivist (1954-1968).



“A photograph, like any other document, has a variety of things it can tell us. We see a man standing, four women seated. Since the photo originally appeared in the context of an article we know why they are at such close quarters. They are sheltering from air raids in the sub-basement of Beaver House. Employees were told that on their way to the shelter they should take with them all the papers on their desks. That way, if the office was destroyed, the HBC would still have its most current documents with which to carry on business. For war makes obvious the inherent fragility of paper records. In 1939 the Archives had been moved to the safety of Hexton Manor in Hertfordshire, home of Patrick Cooper, the HBC Governor.

“Strange as the setting may seem, and awkwardly squashed together as the people are, it would seem even stranger if the photo showed four men seated, three of them at typewriters. For the typewriter was the woman’s machine. In the late 1800s the word ‘typewriter’ could mean the woman who used the machine as well as the machine itself. Typing replaced handwriting as a means of copying documents because it is faster and more efficient. It was believed that slender, feminine fingers were especially suited to typing and so the typewriter gave women the entrance to office work. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, women working in offices were—and are–paid less than men. In the USA, anger over this injustice led to the ‘9 to 5 Movement’.

“We can see clearly the hands of the woman nearest us, poised over her keyboard. Documents, whether typed or written, on paper or clay, have for centuries been created by the human hand, whether pounding typewriter keys or holding a pen. What effect ‘dictation technology’ or ‘voice to text’ will have, when the human hand is no longer needed to ‘write’, remains to be seen. Handwritten documents are less and less used as a common means of communication. There is anecdotal evidence that this is beginning to have an effect on historical research. There are already people who have difficulty reading handwriting, even modern handwriting. It used to be that only medieval historians had to study palaeography. Is the time coming when historians of more recent historical eras will have to be taught how to read handwriting? I can sympathize. I first worked in 20th century records in the HBC Archives, with the late Alex Ross. Despite the romance of the quill pen, I much appreciated having to deal with typed documents. Perhaps some of them were typed by the women in this photograph?”


References:
  1. ^ The complete article and other pieces about the London staff in wartime are available on the web site of Canada’s History. https://www.canadashistory.ca/archive . Also of interest: Deirdre Simmons, Keepers of the Record: The History of the Hudson’s Bay Company Archives, McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2007, and ‘9 to 5: The Story of A Movement’ on PBS video app.


Want to know more? Search Keystone for more information. You can also Visit Us in person at the Archives of Manitoba.

Want to participate in Your Archives? See Submit Your Story for details. You may e-mail us at yourarchives@gov.mb.ca with a comment about this blog post and your comments may be included on this page.


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April 9, 2021

Manitoba District School Attendance Registers, Woolwich School, 1952-1968 – Submitted by Ernest N. Braun, retired teacher and amateur local historian


“My generation transitioned from the old rural one-room District School to the consolidated schools in neighbouring towns. At the time, having one teacher in one room with 28 students spread from kindergarten level to grade 9 correspondence did not occur to us as unusual. In fact, hearing in advance what the next grade was learning, and reviewing what I had already learned in the previous years provided a rounded experience very hard to duplicate today, even with the ubiquitous Chromebooks and individualized instruction. The school attendance registers for those District Schools were largely recalled by the government and are now stored at the Archives, where you can check which days you missed school, and often read the lesson plans for each grade level. The depth/breadth of culture underlying the curriculum materials in those days is an eye-opener. While covering fractions, long-division, apostrophes and possessives, nature study and geography in grade 4, and doing calligraphy with a dip stylus, the students were also learning No 5 of Brahms’ “Hungarian Dances”, and drawing in parallel perspective, while at the same time students in grade 7 studied Hamlet and Othello. European history, Canadian history, world geography, detailed grammar analysis, physiology of the human body, the solar system and much more rounded out the rest of the curriculum. Small wonder that I prize those years as the best of all my years in school.”



Want to know more? Search Keystone for more information. You can also Visit Us in person at the Archives of Manitoba.

Want to participate in Your Archives? See Submit Your Story for details. You may e-mail us at yourarchives@gov.mb.ca with a comment about this blog post and your comments may be included on this page.


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