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Saturday 2 December 2023

The 2023 Local History Buff's Christmas Gift Guide

Here is my fourteenth annual Christmas gift guide for the local history buff in your life!


Books are a must for any history buff! Here is a list of some great local history titles. Those with a "***" indicate that they are new for 2023. Also see the list of 2021 and 2022 Margaret McWilliams Awards nominees for more regional titles.

Please support local and independent bookstores!

Locally, we have McNally Robinson and the book shops at a number of museums and galleries.
There are also some bricks and mortar chain stores still around, such as Chapters and even a Coles. At used book stores, such as Bison Books and Burton Lysecki, you will find gently used and out-of-print local history titles.

***On the Road to Abandoned Manitoba is the third instalment of this series by Gordon Goldsborough, which is also a CBC radio segment. More unusual and overlooked historical people, places and objects from Manitoba's history. Also see series one and series two. (Publisher's store, Chapters, McNally)

Osborne Village: An Architectural Tour Explore this historic and contemporary architecture of this dynamic Winnipeg neighbourhood with the latest tour book form the Winnipeg architecture Foundation. (WAF Shop, McNally Robinson)

***The Gorilla Man Strangler Case is great for true crime fans. Earle Leonard Nelson, a serial killer form the U.S. fled to Winnipeg where he continues his spree and met his end.  (Friesens, McNally, Chapters)

***A Prairie Odyssey: Alan Beaven and the Tree Planting Car, How Tree Planting Transformed the Prairies is a 2023 reprint of a 2011 book with a new forward by Alan Beaven's daughter. Proceeds go to helping restore the Tree Planting Car which is now at the Manitoba Agricultural Museum in Austin, Manitoba. (Manitoba Ag Museum gift shop, Dauphin Rail Museum shop - both open year round but contact in advance for hours)

***The Art of Ectoplasm Encounters with Winnipeg's Ghost Photographs is perfect for the supernatural fan. It explores the research and photographs of T. G. Hamilton and Lillian Hamilton at their Henderson Highway home. (Publisher's store, McNally)

Max Blankstein, Architect was the first Jewish architect registered in Canada and designed at least 200 buildings. Many of his theatres, apartments and commercial blocks are still around today. (Winnipeg Architecture Foundation, McNally)

***WSD 150 Celebration Book is a 224 page, full colour, hardcover book outlining the history of Winnipeg School Division's first 150 years. Each school past and present gets a write-up. It's also a bargain at $10 per copy! (WSD Office)

***Tales from the Homestead: A History of Prairie Pioneers, 1867-1914 is a compilation of first-person accounts by English, Dutch, German, Russian, Ukrainian, and American homesteaders to the Canadian prairies. (McNally, publisher's store)

***Valley of the Birdtail: An Indian Reserve, a White Town, and the Road to Reconciliation looks at the 150-year history between the white town of  Rossburn and the Waywayseecappo Indian reserve. The story reflects much of what has gone wrong in relations between Indigenous Peoples and non-Indigenous Canadians. It also offers, in the end, an uncommon measure of hope. (Chapters, McNally)

***Medicare’s Histories: Origins, Omissions, and Opportunities in Canada looks back at the origins and evolution of Canada's most cherished social program. (Publisher's store, McNally, Chapters)

L'University de Saint-Boniface This french language book by retired USB historian Michel Verrette explores 200 years of the evolution of the first higher education institution in Western Canada. (Éditions des Plaines)

Falcons Forever The Saga of the 1920 Olympic Gold Medal Ice Hockey Team. Written by a granddaughter of Falcons’ defenseman Konrad “Konnie” Johannesson, this book chronicles the Winnipeg Falcons’ journey to the VII Olympiad in Antwerp, Belgium. For video of the book launch. (Friesen Press, McNally Robinson)

Did You See Us?  Reunion, Remembrance, and Reclamation at an Urban Indian Residential School The Assiniboia Indian Residential School in suburban Winnipeg was was one of the few such institutions to be located in a large urban setting and operated from 1958 to 1973. These are the stories of many survivors of the school.

Thinking Big: A History of the Winnipeg Business Community to the Second World War is, sadly, Jim Blanchard's last book about the history of Winnipeg as the prolific author died  in September 2022.  Thinking Big examines the history of Winnipeg’s business development through profiles of Manitoba industries and personalities, dating from the days of the HBC to more modern enterprises. (Great Plains, McNally)

For a Better World depicts key events of the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike, detailing the dynamic and complex historiography of the Strike and the larger Workers’ Revolt that reverberated around the world and shaped the century following the war. Read a book review. (U of M Press, McNally Robinson)

Two Minutes for Talking to Myself: Jets, Coyotes, Tales, Opinions. For a couple of generations of sports fans, Curt Keilback was the voice of hockey in Winnipeg. This is a compilation of short stories looking back on his decades covering the game. (McNally Robinson)

Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences in Manitoba: A History tells the story of more than 150 years of  women’s health care in Manitoba. For a book review, video of the book launch.  (McNally)

Ghost Signs: An Exchange District Walking Tour tells the story behind the mostly long-forgotten companies or products that these signs advertised. Check out the accompanying website. (WAF Shop, McNally Robinson)

Mosienko: The Man Who Caught Lightning in a Bottle tells the story of a Manitoba legend, from his childhood spent skating on the rinks of Winnipeg's North End in the 1920s and 30s to his illustrious fourteen-year NHL career to his return to Winnipeg to play with the Winnipeg Warriors to his post-retirement career as the owner of the iconic Mosienko Bowling Lanes. See video of the book launch here. (Great Plains Publications, McNally Robinson, Chapters)

Heart of Gold: A History of Winnipeg Music is the latest release by music historian John Einarson. It looks at the background of all genres of the music scene in Winnipeg and their influence nationally and beyond. See an interview with the author here. (Order online)

Authorized Heritage: Place, Memory, and Historic Sites in Prairie Canada analyses the history of commemoration at heritage sites across western Canada and argues that heritage narratives are almost always based on national messages that commonly reflect colonial perceptions of the past. See the virtual book launch. (U of M Press, McNally Robinson)

The Lesser Known: A History of Oddities from the Heart of the Continent by Darren Bernhardt explores some of the lesser known aspects of Manitoba's history. (Great Plains, McNally Robinson, Chapters)

A Diminished Roar is the late Jim Blanchard's third instalment of his series on Winnipeg's history. He's taken us through the boom of 1912, the turbulence of World War I and now the uncertain 1920s. (U of M Press, McNally, Chapters)

Assiniboine Park: Designing and Developing a People's Playground is the definitive book on the sometimes controversial history of Winnipeg's favourite park. My review. (Great Plains, McNally, Chapters)
Coming of Age: A History of the Jewish People of Manitoba This nearly 500-page book tells the story of the small but influential Jewish community of Winnipeg. (McNally, Jewish Heritage Centre)

North East Winnipeg Area History parts one, two AND three are limited-run books produced by the North East Winnipeg Historical Society that explore the history of Elmwood, East Kildonan and North Kildonan. (Contact the NEWHS for purchases)

Rooster Town is the story of the life and death of this largely Metis community that stood near where the Grant Park Shopping Centre is now. Companion pieces about the research that went into this book can be found here and here.  (U of M Press, McNally, Chapters)

Memories of the Moonlight Special and Grand Beach Train Era takes you back to the firsts half of the 20th century when trains brought eager tourists to these resort beach communities. (Borealis Press, McNally)

In Snacks: A Canadian Food History Janis Thiessen tells the back story of Canadian party favourites such as Old Dutch Potato Chips, Hawkins Cheezies and Ganong chocolates. (U of M Press, McNally Robinson)

Jeffrey Thorsteinson (architectural historian) and Brennan Smith (art historian) team up in Green Blankstein Russell and Associates: An Architectural Legacy. This local company went on to become one of Canada's preeminent modernist architecture firms of the 1950s and 60s. (WAF shop, McNally, Chapters)

Bryan Scott and Bartley Kives are back with their second instalment of unique photos and commentary. (See below for their first offering.) Stuck in the Middle 2 ventures where Stuck in the Middle didn’t: outside the Perimeter. (Great Plains, McNally, Chapters)

Photographer John Paskievich revisits the places he photographed in the 1970s – 1990s for his book in his book The North End in The North End Revisited.  (U of M Press, McNally Robinson, Chapters)

The Winnipeg Architecture Foundation continues to add items to its bookshelf. Check out the Colour Your City colouring book featuring dozens of Winnipeg's best known buildings. There is also a children's guide called Exchange Marks the Spot and their ever-growing collection of illustrated walking tour pocket books as well.

First published in 2006, Louis Riel: A Comic Strip Biography is back in print! The history of Riel in graphic novel form. (Publisher's shop, McNally, Chapters)

You can never go wrong with Winnie the Pooh! here's the latest book written about the real-life bear! (McNally) Also, check out this review in The Guardian.

More Winnie in Winnie the Bear. Read more about the book at the accompanying website. (McNally)

Portage and Main Press' Tales from Big Spirit series of graphic novels tell the stories of key Indigenous figures in history, including Tommy Prince, Gabriel Dumont and Thanadelthur. (Portage and Main Press, McNally Robinson)

Brian Darragh, one of Winnipeg's last streetcar operators, put together this look back at our forgotten streetcar heritage. Check out the accompanying website. (Friesen's, Heritage Winnipeg)

The Patriotic Consensus  Unity, Morale, and the Second World War in Winnipeg by Dr.  Jody Perrun takes a look at what it was like in Winnipeg while World War II raged overseas. Hear my interview with the author. (McNally, U of M Press)

This is from 2013, but a book every Winnipegger should own. Imagining Winnipeg a collection of some of L. B. Foote's most interesting photographs of early Winnipeg, many never before published. (U of M Press, McNally, Chapters)


Prairie History is the quarterly journal of the Manitoba Historical Society. Single copies can be purchased at McNally Robinson or get it free with your membership in the MHS. Launched in 2020, it replaces the journal Manitoba History. For back issues of both contact the MHS office.

No more snickering because The Beaver is now called Canada's History Magazine. Canada's History Society also publish Kayak: Canadian History for Kids. Both are produced right here in Winnipeg and you can order gift subscriptions through the links above. See their online shop.


It's Winnipeg. It's winter. It's gonna get cold. Who wouldn't want an HBC blanket?

Keeping it Riel t-shirts are back at the St. Boniface Museum Boutique. You can also find a wide range of sashes, voyageur toques, and fire bags.


Many museums have their own shops where you're sure to find something unique. You should contact the museums first to check out their winter hours.

Here are links to some of them: St. Boniface Museum - Manitoba Museum - Daly House (Brandon) -
Mennonite Heritage Village (Steinbach) - Transcona Museum - New Iceland Heritage Museum (Gimli) - British Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum (Brandon) - Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre (Morden)

Besides their book collection, the Winnipeg Architecture Foundation has a wide selection of merchandise featuring iconic Winnipeg buildings, such as pins, fridge magnets, mugs, and new this year are holiday greeting cards. Available for delivery or at their NEW location at 177 Lombard Street.

The St. Boniface Museum Boutique has a wide range of items, including Metis flags, mugs, voyageur sashes, toques, and replica Red River carts. Yes, Keeping it Riel t-shirts are back!

The Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada's new Landing Zone Boutique has clothing, toys, models, books and more that celebrate our aviation heritage.

The Golden Boy Gift Shop at the Manitoba Legislature celebrates everything Manitoba. From Manitoba crested glasses and mugs to Golden Boy scarves and toques.


Heritage Winnipeg has an online store that includes a collection of prints by Robert J. Sweeney.

From artist Kristina Dimitrova you can buy prints of maps for your favourite neighbourhood, small town, provincial park or lake. She also has watercolours of city streetscapes, including the gone but not forgotten Winnipeg Arena.

Elaina El's beautiful paintings capture iconic Winnipeg streetscapes. Original artwork and prints are available.

At the City of Selkirk's online shop you can purchase historic postcards and this 1914 Planning Scheme Map of the Town of Selkirk. If you like more modern history, they also have items featuring Chuck the Channel Cat and the newly repainted water tower.


How about a stay in one of the city's oldest hotels? The Hotel Fort Garry still oozes the charm of early 20th century railway hotels and offers packages. It's pet friendly, too ! Dress up old school and make a weekend of it.


I fall else fails, remember that most museums and heritage groups run on shoestring budgets. Many have not recovered their membership and visitor numbers since COVID-related closures and cancelled fundraising events. Why not buy someone a membership or make a donation on their behalf.

You can find a complete list of Manitoba museums here. Some deserving groups:

Heritage Winnipeg - Manitoba Historical Society - Daly House Museum (Brandon) - Brandon General Museum and Archives - Dunnottar Station Museum - St. Vital Historical Society - Swan Valley Historical Museum - Dalnavert Museum - Manitoba Transit Heritage Association - Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada - Settlers Rails and Trails Museum (Argyle) - Musée St. Joseph MuseumWinnipeg Railway Museum - Margaret Laurence Home (Neepawa) -- Winnipeg Fire Fighters Museum - Beautiful Plains Museum (Neepawa) - Marine Museum of Manitoba (Selkirk)  Transcona Historical Museum - Heritage North Museum (Thompson)  - Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame - Manitoba Agricultural Museum (Austin) - Fort la Reine Museum (Portage) -  Manitoba Indigenous Cultural Education Centre - New Iceland Heritage Museum - Winnipeg Police Museum

There are several active restoration projects taking place around the province. (If you know of others, let me know!)

- Winnipeg Streetcar 356 Restoration Project
- Rivers Train Station Restoration Project
- Transcona CN 2747 Preservation Project
- Manitoba Agricultural Museum Forestry Rail Car Restoration

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