The Saint-Boniface Museum’s collections document the evolution of the Francophone community since it established itself in the Canadian West, particularly as it developed in Manitoba. There are some 30,000 artifacts in the Museum.
The collections may be divided into four main categories:
- fine arts
The historic collection includes, for example, the following: French-Canadian and Métis furniture (the Proulx loom, the Malo chest-on-chest, a Quebec armoire, the Moïse Richard table and armchair); craftsmen’s tools (blacksmith, carpenter, tinsmith) and professional equipment (Doctor Collin’s surgical instruments); objects typical of pioneer living (butter churn, oil lamp) and of agriculture (scythe, sickle, plough); and objects linked to religious observance (liturgical vestments, crucifix, candlesticks). Objects related to leisure time and entertainment include toys and home made statuettes, and musical instruments such as violins that belonged to Claude Ayotte and Andy De Jarlis.
The collection of ethnological artifacts from the First Nations of the Prairies includes beadwork (gloves, a coat, moccasins), a pestle used for pounding pemmican, a “tikinagan“or baby carrier, and archaeological specimens that include arrowheads, spearheads and stone tools.
The fine arts collection contains paintings, sculptures, watercolours, and drawings created by Franco-Manitoban and Métis artists such as Réal Bérard, Jules Desjarlais, Hubert Garnier and Miguel Joyal; portraits of the mayors of St. Boniface painted by Victor A. Long; several of Pauline Boutal’s works, including a painting of the old Grey Nuns’ convent. Part of the Museum’s archival collection is stored in the Centre du patrimoine (Heritage Centre), which is managed by the Société historique de Saint-Boniface. There, more than 1,300 photographs and hundreds of documents are made available to researchers who are interested in Franco-Manitoban and Métis history. Moreover, the Museum holds some 1,800 rare and older books in this collection.
The themes that the Museum interprets shape its collections and influence the way exhibitions are developed. The themes are:
- the fur trade (Hudson’s Bay Company trade gun, voyageur sash, model of a Montréal canoe, small box);
- the origins and development of the Métis nation (tea kettle, Red River cart, snowshoes, beadwork [leggings and cushion], furniture, tools, artifacts from the Union nationale métisse Saint-Joseph du Manitoba);
- the Red River Colony; · the arrival of the missionaries and the Grey Nuns
- Louis Riel (moccasins, tuque, hairs from his beard, part of his suspenders, his revolver) and the creation of Manitoba (gun seized at Upper Fort Garry);
- the City of St. Boniface (the mayor’s chair, a councillor’s cap, publications);
- the evolution of the French-speaking population in various fields after the second wave of French and French-Canadian immigration – socio-economically (artifacts from businesses), educationally (school supplies and collections of books), and linguistically and culturally (Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day medal).