Bringing all of Manitoba’s local histories together

Manitoba Historical Society wants to digitize them to make them widely available and searchable

The Historical Atlas of the East Reserve is the latest addition to a surprisingly large body of local Manitoba history books.

The Manitoba Historical Society website lists over 500 local histories, arranged alphabetically by municipality.

Those are the ones MHS knows about. The society believes there may be 1,200 such books out there altogether.

Many local histories were published in the 1970s and 1980s after the province, to commemorate Manitoba’s centenary, made grants available for local groups to compile histories of their communities.

Much of their content is devoted to families who settled in the region and their descendants. But they also contain information about key institutions in the community: municipalities, schools, churches, businesses and even grain elevators.

“These local histories are absolutely invaluable. They contain information that you can find nowhere else,” says Gordon Goldsborough, a former MHS president.

To make this information more available to researchers and the general public, MHS has a project called Manitoba 20/20 Hindsight. Its goal is to digitize these local histories to make them readable and searchable online.

A group involving MHS, the University of Manitoba, the Legislative Library and the Manitoba Libraries Consortium, is conducting the project.

So far about 350 books have been scanned. MHS hopes to finish the project by 2020, the 150th anniversary of Manitoba’s founding as a province.

Digitizing these books and their contents is a way of preserving the memories of the people who wrote them, says Goldsborough, MHS’s webmaster and journal editor.

“These books help to fill a gap because they were written by people who often are now gone. Therefore you can’t ask them directly but at least you can get the information they have seen fit to record in these books.”

To inquire about Manitoba Hindsight 20/20, or to lend a local history book for digitizing, people may contact Goldsborough at [email protected].

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