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Manitoba History: Dugald Costume Museum Opens

Manitoba History, Number 6, Fall 1983

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.

Please direct all inquiries to webmaster@mhs.mb.ca.

Do dreams come true? Well, sometimes. Certainly for the Dugald Costume Collection Incorporated an idea grew to a dream and, after much hard work, became a reality.

The Lieutenant-Governor (Pearl McGonigal) and Mrs. Wynne Van Slyck cut the ribbon
Source: The Carillon, Steinbach, Manitoba

The Dugald Costume Museum opened on June 3, 1983. The Celebration was a fitting culmination of 30 years of effort. In 1953 the Dugald Women’s Institute organized a fashion show contrasting past styles with contemporary ones. So many “treasures” were discovered in attics and closets to augment the show over the years that the collection threatened to swamp the Van Slyck home. When it was feared that continual use would destroy the fragile originals, Home Economics students working on summer grants constructed replicas, closely matching fabric and construction. Today the show contains totally new garments and the originals will be stored and shown on the mannequins in the museum.

The opening ceremonies demonstrated the amount of support which was provided in order to achieve this level of success. Represented were the National Museums of Canada, the Province of Manitoba and the Rural Municipality of Springfield. The arrival of the dignitaries, including the Lieutenant-Governor, on the Prairie Dog Central vintage train accompanied by suitably costumed members provided period elegance to the proceedings.

The large crowd waited patiently for their first glimpse of the interior of the museum. Here, the use of natural wood conveys a pleasant atmosphere and the various areas seem well suited to the functions. The diagonal entry uses space efficiently and includes a small but well-stocked gift shop. The exhibit hall with an area of 2500 feet contains several tableaux of costumed situations and surroundings. These mannequins will be rotated annually.

Dugald Costume Museum
Source: The Carillon, Steinbach, Manitoba

Other items in the collection can be examined in an adjoining visual storage area. This is a relatively new concept in museum display. The public has access to plexiglass-topped drawers which show many smaller items in the collection. This feature creates a mood of exploration as the drawers are opened, revealing a particularly intricate piece of lace or perhaps a tiny item from a child’s wardrobe. This will make the museum particularly useful as a teaching centre since many items can be shown as examples without excessive handling. Other facilities include the work area, storage, offices, staff room and lecture room.

The building and its equipment is a million dollar project which is totally paid for. Present membership of the museum stands at 650.

Page revised: 27 October 2012

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