Free Press: Across the sands of time
U of M archives have more than a million ways to look back at city's history
The black-and-white photo, taken well over a century ago, shows a young aboriginal woman with thick, matted hair. She is wearing a heavy coat obviously made by recent immigrants to her home, along the Red and Assiniboine rivers.
In another image, an older woman, in traditional dress, poses with a baby peeking at the camera over a cradleboard.But the common denominator in both photos, taken in Winnipeg in the 1880s — and now on display at the University of Manitoba Archives and Special Collections — is the eyes.
It’s as if they could see the future.
“Obviously, in the 1880s, it was a period of significant, jarring, wrenching change for the indigenous people on the Prairies,” explained Brian Hubner, acting head of archives and special collections at the University of Manitoba. “You can see it in their faces. These are not happy expressions.”
The rare photos are part of the Spirit of Red River exhibit, which also includes documents and photos of Louis Riel, old architecture collections — even an 1888 exam from the University of Manitoba.
Hubner said the exhibit, which runs until Oct. 7 on the third floor of the Elizabeth Dafoe Library (25 Chancellors Circle), not only offers a glimpse into Winnipeg’s past, but also represents just an inkling of the hundreds of thousands of photos and documents contained in the archive that can be accessed by the public.
There are more than 500,000 photographs alone that document all facets of life in Manitoba dating back some 135 years.