Miami, Manitoba, has got to be right up there among the towns/cities with the highest ratio of museums per capita, not just in Canada but in the whole world. According to Wikipedia, the population of this southern Manitoba small town is about 500. And as tiny a place as it is, it has not one but two museums –both of them very interesting if you are seriously curious about life one hundred years ago.
So the title of this entry is only half an exaggeration.
First stop: Miami Museum (a.k.a. Miami Pioneer Museum)
The Miami Museum, which opened in August of 1972, is housed in an old building that used to be the St. James Anglican Church (built in 1910). The moment you step in, you realize that this museum is a true, humble labour of love. This is the epitome of genuine. You see a great collection of artifacts labeled in odd-shaped cards handwritten by your host, Mr. Jim Woods (a volunteer who has been greeting people and telling them stories of the town for longer than he can remember).
The artifacts are organized without either rhyme or reason, yet – ironically – this adds to the attractiveness of the place. This is a collection of objects depicting life in old-tyme Miami and area, aligned here for you to join the dots and discover.
As Mr. Woods explains, many of these artifacts are old personal objects that the townspeople were ready to throw away because they no longer served any purpose. The fact that someone collected these objects and decided to put them on display is our gain.
The disparate collection ranges from old grocery products, war uniforms and documents, to travel gear, books, photographs, kitchen utensils, bedding, farming tools, women’s fashion… There are even bones of a couple prehistoric animals!
The museum looks fairly small from the outside, but it’s easy to lose oneself in it for more than an hour. Highly recommended.
Location: Cole St. at Kerby Ave., Miami, MB
Hours: June to September, weekends only, 2:00 pm-5:00 pm (or by appointment, calling (204) 435-2305 or (204) 435-2782)
Admission: by donation ($5 is suggested)
Second stop: Miami Railway Museum
Here is yet another great place to spend an hour discovering snippets of the past. The Miami Railway museum is not only a National Historic Site but also one of the oldest museums in Manitoba. From the marker placed outside:
“The Canadian Northern Railway was begun in 1899 when the entrepreneurs Mackenzie and Mann brought about the amalgamation of two old railways. Although they began to build a new track, they also acquired other existing lines including the important Northern Pacific and Manitoba Railway in 1901. When the Canadian government took over the Canadian Northern in 1917, the railway spanned the country. The Miami station, built in 1889, is a rare surviving example of a Northern Pacific and Manitoba Railway station which was used for many years by the Canadian Northern and the Canadian National Railways.”
The station was converted into a museum in 1975. In 1994 a local non-profit committee took over the building and has been repairing it and improving it since then. The museum now doubles as the local “tourist information booth” and even hosts art shows.
As opposed to the Pioneer Museum, the Railway Museum is organized in rooms/exhibits, separated in two levels, each depicting different facets of the life of the rural railway station agent. (Back in the day, the building was both the station and the house where the agent lived.)
Not all the artifacts and pieces of furniture are the originals that could be found in this station more than a hundred years ago. However, the local volunteers have made a great job of finding similar local objects from the same time period, and the results are worth the trip from Winnipeg –or from wherever you are in southern Manitoba. Also highly recommended.
Location: Letain St. at Hwy. 23, Miami, MB (impossible to miss from the road)
Hours: early June to late September, weekends only, 2:00 pm-5:00 pm (or by appointment, calling (204) 435-2013 or (204) 435-2115)
Admission: $2 per person, or $5 per family
Planning your visit
How to get there (from Winnipeg): from the Perimeter souothwest, take Hwy. 3 (McGillivray Blvd.) and drive 77.5 km, then turn right on Hwy. 23 and drive 18 more kilometres (Click for map)
When to go: June to September. It would be ideal to go during the weekend of the Miami Agricultural Society Fair and Rodeo (2009: June 26-28); however, the museums could be closed due to the fair, so call the numbers above in advance just in case.
Why this place is important: The Miami Railway museum is both a National Historic Site and one of the oldest museums in Manitoba.
Other places to visit on the same trip: there are several interesting small towns and cities nearby –click on the Wikipedia link above for details.
Weather: check it here.
Will your MTS wireless device work there? The signal is too weak, so don’t count on it.