News & UpdatesBlack and white photo of the attendees of the Selkirk Heritage Endowment Fundraiser

Evening of History set for May 9; will you be there?

Funding from the Selkirk Heritage Endowment Fund (SHEF) now funds more than the Marine Museum, it’s allowed the city to have a dedicated staff person for its online museum, and that has generated a lot of traffic to the site. The question now is, will the virtual visitors take to their feet and come out and attend the May 9 Evening of History sponsored by Metis N4 Construction Inc.

“The online museum has been getting great feedback, and that is due in no small part to the fact SHEF has allowed for a dedicated staff person,” says Ellie Longbottom, Selkirk’s Culture Coordinator.

“The Evening of History is a fundraiser for SHEF, and hopefully those people that are enjoying the site will come out for an evening of three-dimensional fun and history that will help us continue to improve the online experience and eventually the physical museum.”

Barb Lavallee has been a member of the Selkirk Heritage Advisory Committee for a long time and with the Evening of History, presented by the City of Selkirk, fast approaching, she was giving some thought to heritage and what’s important and special about preserving it.

She came across this quote by an unknown author: “The beauty of heritage lies in its stories waiting to be told”.

“I thought it was fitting,” said Lavallee, who’s now the Chairperson of the committee.

“There’s a bit of a misconception that the Heritage Committee is just about preserving buildings or naming streets, but it’s more than that. There are stories about important historical people to be told.”

Guest speaker Gerry Friesen tells the story of John Norquay

Selkirk Heritage Advisory Committee member Greg Dewar will emcee the evening.

Longbottom says the event features guest speaker Gerry Friesen who will tell the story of John Norquay, an MLA for St. Andrews and Manitoba Premier in the 1800s.

“It adds to the evening, which is always a really good time. The stories that are told are educational and so fun, and the story of John Norquay is captivating. He was a well-liked and respected resident of the area, and as the story goes, he was a great dancer and loved to tell stories, making him the perfect topic for the night.”

Friesen, who was a history professor at U of M for more than 40 years, has written several Canadian history books, including his latest, The Honourable John Norquay.

Friesen has written about Norquay in the past, and knew he was an interesting person, but the emergence of thousands of documents, including letters written by or to Norquay, in the Manitoba Archives gave him an incredible data base to draw from and really flesh out the character of the man.  He set about writing his book after his retirement in 2011.

“I knew a lot about him and knew he was a fascinating person, but I didn’t really understand enough to be able to do more than write 15 pages, which is what I did at that time,” Friesen said.

“But (when) these thousands of letters, probably 7,000 documents in total, were available and I was retiring from the university, I decided that I would write a book about him…so that’s how it began and I’ve spent 10 years doing it.”

The result is a 400-page book that really delves into Norquay, his big personality that matched his stature of over six-feet tall and at times 300-plus pounds.

“In those days a tall man would be five-foot-seven say, and Norquay…was much bigger,” Friesen said.

“There were other giants of his time, but he was one of the very big individuals. He was a superb speaker and people loved to hear him talk, and he would tell jokes and tease other people in speaking, so he was a very lively guy.

“People along the road between Winnipeg and Selkirk, I’ve got several letters in the archives saying, ‘do please stop in and tell us some stories, we love to hear you talk.”

Norquay spoke many languages and dialects including Bungi – a mix of Cree and Ojibway, Orkney and English from both England and Scotland – as well as the Queen’s English, some Ojibway, Cree, Anishinaabe, Michif as well as French.

Friesen’s stop in Selkirk will be one of many as he travels to promote his book.

Coloured photo of mayors Bill Shead and Bud Oliver on stage at the evening of history
Past Mayors Bill Shead and Bud Oliver at SHEF Evening of History 2023

History filled evening taking place at Memorial Hall

The evening will once again be held at Memorial Hall and there will be historic displays, wine or beer, hors d’oeuvres, entertainment, door prizes and a 50/50.

SHEF was established in 2012 by the City of Selkirk as a perpetual endowment fund that will support the ongoing operational costs of a new municipal heritage museum.

Until such a museum is established, the fund provides annual grants to the Marine Museum of Manitoba and the city’s museum, which is virtual at this time.

In 2015, the fund paid out its first grant of $5,422 to the Marine Museum. In total, SHEF, which is managed by the Selkirk and District Community Foundation has paid $154,796 in grants to both entities.

In eight years, the Evening of History has raised $23,480. 

Museum keeps the community learning and "buzzing"

The city’s museum has been engaging and entertaining enthusiasts of local history online since 2018 and oftentimes has the online community buzzing. Regular social media posts drive traffic to the site, and folks leave comments reminiscing about days gone by in their beloved hometown, where many still live, and those that don’t are seriously giddy at taking the online trip down memory lane.

Former Selkirk resident Susan Quinn got caught up in the posts recently when they focused on her dad, the late Len Manahan, who worked at the Garry Theatre from the age of 18 to 65.

“Somebody said, ‘I remember Mr. Manahan,’ and somebody else chimed in and then the chain started. They just talked about lovely things, and it was of course about bringing the theatre back and it would be nice to have Mr. Manahan. It just came back through the conversations of the community,” Quinn said.

She noted that the online museum and posts keep her connected to her hometown.

“I don’t live in Selkirk anymore so that is my connection to Selkirk. I love reading stories about Selkirk, from the days that my mom was a girl there, growing up there, seeing people and houses, how the community was built. All those connections… and how else do you keep a community alive without the connections that you make. The pictures, the conversations, and the stories, they all build a community and they keep the past and the present and the future together. That’s important.”


More than 80 virtual exhibits

The museum has grown to the point that it now has more than 80 virtual exhibits and numerous short blog posts.

Tickets for the Evening of History can be purchased online at HERE. If you don’t have access to the Internet please come to the Civic Office at 200 Eaton Ave., and city staff will assist you. There will be no physical tickets, so even if you buy your ticket at the Civic Office, you won’t get a ticket, but your name will be on a list at the door the night of the event.

Thank you to our sponsors

Title Sponsor: Metis N4 Construction Inc.
Entertainment Sponsor: Access Credit Union
Appetizer Sponsor: Life a Little Sweeter
Beverage Sponsor: Gerdau
Speaker Sponsor: Selkirk Friendship Centre
Media Sponsor: Selkirk Record