The New Virtual Tour of “Lost” University of Manitoba

23 Apr 2022 10:56 AM | Digital Initiatives, AMA (Administrator)

The University of Manitoba has a long and storied history in this province.  In the following blog post, Shelley Sweeney, Archivist Emerita from the University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections, highlights the work of volunteers to shed light on this institutions history.

Volunteers at the University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections work on projects that interest them that augment the regular work done by staff. This latest project by Wayne Chan, a research computer analyst with the Centre for Earth Observation Science at the University of Manitoba, explores the forgotten places and spaces at the University using the new web version of Google Earth. Through this platform people are brought to three different campuses: the Fort Garry campus, the Bannatyne medical campus, and the old Broadway campus.

Visitors to the site can fly between campuses and hop between various locations, or they can use the table of contents to jump to a particular place, or they can click on a pin to find out what used to be in the space before. On the right-hand side of the screen, people can read a brief description of what was there, accompanied by archival photos and short videos. The majority of these archival materials were obtained from the University of Manitoba Archives, augmented by a few photos from publications or other institutions. Wayne deliberately chose quirky or interesting places to highlight, and further enhanced his choices with unusual facts that will surprise many visitors to the site.

Thus, visitors to the site can discover that the University of Manitoba used to be the place for an ice-making plant, where men would cut blocks of ice from the Red River to use for people’s home refrigeration. There was a provincial experimental fur farm on the Fort Garry campus, and the University had to provide its own water before being hooked up to the city system. Students used to swim in the Red River, practice shooting rifles, or play broomball on an outdoor rink. In later years, when tired, students could borrow a pillow and blanket to sleep in the University Centre Nap Rooms! In the early part of the last century the Dean of Medicine used a horse-drawn sleigh to make his way around in winter. The tour provides a fascinating glimpse of both the University and broader society in general through these historical vignettes.

This format is ideally suited for the pandemic and for people who are interested in the University without wanting to deal with the trek out to the campuses or the confusion of making their way around the labyrinthine spaces once they get there. The tour allows people to sample the histories as they have time without having to commit to a lengthy visit. This type of interface brings archival material to new audiences and importantly, drives people to the Archives’ website. Other archives may find this format useful. I have it on Wayne’s word that the format is very easy to master through the various online tutorials.

To visit the virtual tour, or to learn about other parts of the University’s history, go to And if you have knowledge of other lost places on one of the University of Manitoba campuses, let the Archives know at!

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