Manitoba Historical Society
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Manitoba History: Rural Resources Archives - Brandon, Manitoba

by Kate Kuntz

Manitoba History, Number 3, 1982

This article was published originally in Manitoba History by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make it available here as a free, public service.

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The hopes, fears, disappointments and successes of Manitoba’s first settlers are documented in what most people might consider junk. Having survived countless spring cleanings, these documents—early newspapers, old photographs, diaries, maps, financial records, family histories, scrapbooks, and personal letters—have found their way into the Rural Resources Archives presently located at Brandon University.

The Rural Resources Archives were established in 1975 through a foundation grant from the Manitoba Pool Elevators. The funders and founders envisioned the archives as a permanent documentation of rural life which would be of use to both the general public and scholars doing research into our historical past.

Several factors led to the inception of the archives. There had been a resurgence of interest in preserving community history since it was almost 100 years ago that the railroad came through and the settlements which sprang up along the tracks were soon going to be celebrating their centennials. Recently, one Manitoba printer had 137 local history books in the works, ranging from “slender paperbacks to hefty hard-backed jobs you need two hands to life.”

This popular interest in local history has uncovered all sorts of information from how taxes have been collected to how great-grandmother baked an apple pie. The accumulation of these documents stressed the need for a facility to store and preserve them for future generations.

Graham Threshing Outfit, Roland, Manitoba, 1926
Source: Western Canada Pictorial Index

“We are rapidly losing an excellent primary source of Manitoba’s history as our elderly citizens die. Their “personal archives” consisting of family photographs, wedding invitations, letters, and family scrapbooks are often lost or thrown out.” So says Sally Cunningham, archivist at the Rural Resources Archives.

“As people begin to realize the importance of these documents, they begin to look around for someone who will insure their continued existence. Some of the younger people don’t recognize the importance of the materials, so I try to encourage the present holder of the documents to make arrangements concerning the disposal of their “personal archives” in much the same way one makes a will” Cunningham says.

The response to the archives has been overwhelming; the space allocated to the collection is now bursting at the seams. To date the Rural Resources Archives collection includes:

  • The Manitoba Pool Elevator Collection, consisting of detailed correspondence, operating data, financial statements, membership lists and minute books of over 120 elevator locals dating back to 1925.
  • The Hall Commission Records from the completed study of grain handling and transportation on the prairies.
  • The Rural Collection containing school records, letters, newspapers, and diaries.
  • The Local History Book Collection containing over 100 books about Manitoba’s communities and pioneer families.
  • The Genealogical Reference Library containing a collection of reference books and source materials to assist researchers of family history.
  • The Weekly Newspaper Collection containing current newspapers from communities in rural Manitoba.

Page revised: 13 September 2016

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