Our History - Our Museum
Step back in time with us.
Under the auspices of the Grey Nuns, the convent served as Western Canada’s first hospital. It was also an orphanage, seniors’ home. It also served as a school, initially for both girls and boys; Louis Riel was a student here. Eventually, the Sisters operated a boarding school for girls.
La Société historique de Saint‐Boniface (SHSB, est. 1902) opened a museum in the basement of St. Boniface Cathedral. The SHSB was eventually provided with space in St. Boniface City Hall for this purpose.
Student nurses at St. Boniface General Hospital School of Nursing had to move to the convent during the 1950 flood.
The Grey Nuns vacated the building at 494 Taché; it had been their home since December 1847.
Amid rumours that the former convent was to be demolished, the SHSB spearheaded efforts to designate the building as a historic building for use as a museum.
The Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada designated the building as a historic site, and recommended that it be preserved for possible use as a museum.
The City of St. Boniface, taking over the lead on the project, created the Saint‐Boniface Museum Board, made up of both aldermen and citizen members.
March 5, 1963
The City of St. Boniface and the federal government signed an agreement cost‐sharing the expense of building restoration. As a condition, the City had to conclude a 99‐year lease with the Grey Nuns and a museum management agreement with the SHSB. Other contributors to the project were the Province of Manitoba and the then Metropolitan Corporation of Greater Winnipeg.
June 20, 1963
The City of St. Boniface signed a 99‐year lease agreement with the Grey Nuns. The City was to be “fully responsible for the maintenance of the buildings.…”
Following several years of retrofitting, the Museum opened its doors for several weeks. Regular operations began the following summer, and eventually the Museum would be open year‐round.
May 25, 1970
Given that the initial funds were insufficient to meet the costs of the restoration and that the City of St. Boniface was unable to conclude a management agreement with the SHSB, a new agreement was signed with the federal government in Ottawa, replacing the 1963 agreement. Again, the Metropolitan Corporation and the Province were contributors, and the City agreed to “maintain the convent at its own expense.for a period of 30 years…
The City of Winnipeg Act was passed, amalgamating the numerous municipalities in the area. The new City of Winnipeg assumed “all the responsibilities of the former city of St. Boniface in connection with the St. Boniface Museum.”
The Historic Sites and Monuments Board reaffirmed that the convent was of “exceptional” national significance on both historical and architectural grounds. It asked the federal minister responsible for the Board to enter into discussions with the City of Winnipeg and others, in order “to restore the historic fabric of the convent.”
Winnipeg City Council adopted a business plan prepared by the Museum, outlining the major structural and restorative work on the building that was needed. Of the total cost of $1,264,000, the City was to contribute $410,000 and the Federal government $580,000; the Museum was to secure $157,000 from the St. Boniface Museum Province and $117,000 from other sources, including its own reserve funds.
February 19, 1991
The City of Winnipeg and the federal government entered into a cost‐sharing agreement, which permitted the restoration and structural stabilization of the building.
October 1993 — May 1995
The Museum was closed to allow for the major renovations. When it reopened, it introduced general admission charges for the first time.
The Museum received a Heritage Canada Foundation award in recognition of the vigilance exercised throughout the restoration process; as a result, the historic integrity and fabric of the building had been maintained.
February 19, 1996
The Museum and the City received awards from Heritage Winnipeg for the work done on the building.
The Museum is recognized by the Province as a Manitoba STAR Attraction and enjoys a national reputation for its collection and for the building itself. Staff members are also recognized for their professional expertise and experience. Their reputation results in frequent requests for them to participate in peer review panels and other consultative forums.