Manitoba History: Documents and Archives: University of Manitoba Archives

by Barry Potyondi

Manitoba History, Number 2, 1981

This article was published originally in Manitoba History by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make this online version available as a free, public service. As an historical document, the article may contain language and views that are no longer in common use and may be culturally sensitive in nature.

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The Department of Archives and Special Collections at the University of Manitoba houses a wealth of historical materials on significant events and personalities of Manitoba’s past, yet it remains a relatively unknown and too little used repository of our heritage. Under the direction of Richard Bennett; the department has made rapid progress in the acquisition and cataloguing of new collections, and in the preparation of inventories of existing materials.

Among the more general materials on the history of the province is a newly-acquired photograph collection from the town of Selkirk. It contains 2000 to 3000 prints and negatives of local events and people of the past twenty or thirty years. Although the collection is not yet properly indexed, a partial general index is available to researchers who wish to consult the photographs at present. This acquisition complements the valuable photograph collection amassed by well-known writer Heather Robertson in the preparation of her works on the prairies. She has also donated many of her manuscripts to the department.

Last year the department received the Marshall Gauvin library and personal manuscripts. The 10,000 volumes in this collection deal primarily with the topics of free thought, religion and anti-religion. Gauvin was an active anti-religionist of the 1920s and 1930s in Winnipeg and became well-known for his weekly anti-sermons delivered in down-town theatres. His library, one of the finest of its kind in North America, will prove a boon to scholars. His manuscripts contain practically all of his published and unpublished writings and sermons, and a great deal of important correspondence.

The papers of the late Dr. T. Glendenning Hamilton were accessioned last year as well. This well-known Winnipeg physician was active in medical and political circles in the city, and at one time served in the provincial legislature. His collection is strongest on his avocation of research into psychic phenomenon. It includes many photographs. affidavits, significant correspondence and much interesting detail highlighting his research in this area. A small library of books on the same topic accompanied the donation of manuscripts. In a related vein, the research papers of Dr. Bruce Chown have now been accessioned and are becoming ready for research. The collection reflects Chown’s work in the area of Rh-blood studies and chronicle his search for solutions to the problems related to those studies.

For those interested in Manitoba political history, the department has for several years housed the papers of famous Winnipeg Free Press editor John Wesley Dafoe. Within the collection are several hundred letters from leading Canadian political figures such as Wilfrid Laurier, Robert Borden, Mackenzie King and others. This collection is a must for those studying political events of the first half of this century. More recently, the Archives has received the political papers of Members of Parliament Margaret Konantz, Craig Stewart, Gordon Ritchie and Jack Murta. The papers of the Provincial Liberal Party of Manitoba were accessioned some time ago and constitute a valuable source of information on provincial affairs. These papers are particularly strong in correspondence, news clippings and party studies and reports.

The Archives has a splendid collection of literary manuscripts. Some fourteen years ago the University purchased the papers of Canadian novelist Frederick Philip Grove. The collection consists of all his literary writings, both published and unpublished, and much of his private correspondence. More recently, the Archives accessioned the private papers and literary manuscripts of Dorothy Livesay, a Winnipeg-based poet. This collection will soon be ready for perusal and study. The papers of Charles E. L’Ami, a less well-known Winnipeg writer, were donated to the University last year. L’Ami is best known for his work, The Green Madonna. His collection consists of Bavarian manuscripts, typescripts of several hundred CBC products which he produced, and correspondence. Most recently, the department acquired the manuscripts of the late artist. Bertram Brooker. Brooker is regarded by many as the first Canadian abstract impressionist, and his writings will probably be regarded in time as equally awe-inspiring. Most of his short stories, plays, poems, and other writings have not yet been published and the collection promises to be one of outstanding and increasing value. Accompanying the manuscripts is his personal research library of some 400 volumes, all heavily annotated by Brooker and revealing the influences of other authors upon him.

The latest significant collection to be acquired is the resource library of the now-defunct Winnipeg Tribune. This consists of several thousand photographs taken and produced by the Tribune over the years on a wide range of topics. Complementing this original photograph collection are several thousand wire photos of news items and individuals which the newspaper used in its reporting of national and international news events. The second and no less multitudinous news clippings compiled by subject and by individual biography from around the turn of the century. Significant events were clipped by Tribune staff as resource material for their own editors and reporters. The collection is completely indexed. The Tribune collection will be available for research use within a month or two.

The department is also the official repository of all University of Manitoba files. Most administrative offices have deposited their papers and several present and retired faculty members are doing the same. Recent arrivals include the papers of Paul Hiebert, Frank and Lillian Allen, and J. H. Ellis. And of course the department continues to purchase books, specifically in the areas of early Canadiana and Western Canadiana.

The Department of Archives and Special Collections is located on the third floor of the new wing of the Dafoe Library. Its hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday.

Page revised: 23 April 2010