Blast from the past

A look at the University of Winnipeg then and now

The University of Winnipeg (U of W) is a mishmash of the old and new, from Wesley Hall to McFeetors Hall, and up and down the distinctive late-60’s architecture of Centennial. And while buildings go up or get renovated, offices move and the functions of places change, many parts of university life continue in an ongoing cycle: Sleep, study, eat, study, hang out, study. 

Many graduate and some never look back. But reviewing the perennial cycles of university history is the number one job of the U of W Archives. 

“We’re the home of the records of the university as well as its predecessor colleges, so we have the records of Wesley and Manitoba College as well as United College before it became the University of Winnipeg in 1967,” Brett Lougheed, who works as a University Archivist/Digital Curator for the U of W Archives, says.

“We have minutes and agendas of Board and Senate, we have registers listing student attendance at the University over time. In addition to that we have a small audio and visual collection,” Lougheed says. “(We have) a little bit of artwork, so we really run the gamut in terms of media availability here in the archives.” 

All that history has only been officially housed in the Archives for the last 15 years. 

In 2000, the U of W Archives was tasked by the Board of Regents to officially maintain the visual and textual history of the university and its communities. The archives existed unofficially within the library before that, but it wasn’t until 2000 that the first archivist was hired. 

The archives are open to students, faculty and staff for their research interests, and Lougheed encourages potential visitors to peruse their website, Facebook and Twitter beforehand to get a sense of the types of material they collect. 

And while archives may get a reputation for being mired in the old, dusty past, Lougheed says that they’re also working on preserving the present for future historians, and expanding their collections to include more digital formats. They’re also seeking materials that are of interest to U of W research. 

“We’re looking at acquiring records of social justice, records by and about indigenous peoples, and a focus on Winnipeg’s West End and the urban core areas.” Lougheed says. 

The Uniter spent some time with in the Archives – located on the fifth floor of Centennial Hall, in the library – hunting for photos that showed the basic realities of student life. We wanted to see how the good old (or bad old) days would match up with modern realities. We hope you enjoy these blasts from the past, and snapshots of the present. 

For more on the U of W archives, visit archives. uwinnipeg.ca.

Published in Volume 70, Number 12 of The Uniter (November 26, 2015)

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