The Local History Buff's Christmas Gift Guide: 2020


It's back for an 11th year! My list of holiday gift ideas for that local history buff in your life. Books, magazines, prints, memberships, and more!

Local History Buff's Christmas Gift Guide 2020


Here is my eleventh annual Christmas gift guide for the local history buff in your life!

This year, the concentration is on local vendors, artists, book stores, museums and gift shops. It may take a bit longer to shop at them compared to ordering everything in one click from an international retailer, but local business need your support more than ever. Isn't helping out a neighbour what Christmas is all about?


A must for any history buff's gift list are books, of course! Here is a list of some great local history titles. Those with a "**" indicate that they are new for 2020. (Also, see more 2020 titles here in the list of nominees for the 2020 Margaret McWilliams Awards.)

Please support local and independent bookstores! Locally, we have McNally Robinson, three Chapters, and many used book stores, such as Bison Books and Burton Lysecki, where you will find gently used and out-of-print local history titles.
 ** Old Winnipeg: A History in Pictures
from Christine Hanlon contains 140 photos whowing the city the way it was. Here's an interview with the author on the Manitobaville podcast. (McNally Robinson, Chapters)

** Geoff Kirbyson is back with another book about the Jets 1.0. Broken Ribs & Popcorn explores how the Winnipeg Jets became the best team in the NHL's most offensive era to not win the Stanley Cup. Here's an interview with the author. (McNally Robinson, Chapters)

** The Lesser Known: A History of Oddities from the Heart of the Continent by Darren Bernhardt explores some of the lesser known aspects of Manitoba's history. (Great Plains, McNally Robinson, Chapters)

** Did You See Us?  Reunion, Remembrance, and Reclamation at an Urban Indian Residential School offers first-hand accounts of life at the the Assiniboia Indian Residential School in Winnipeg (U of M Press)

** Treasures of Winnipeg's Historic Exchange is a book of modern photos of some of Winnipeg's oldest architectural gems by George J Mitchell. (McNally, Chapters)

 ** Compelled to Act:  Histories of Women’s Activism in Western Canada (U of M Press, McNally)

**The Golden Boy in the case of the missing cube
(bilingual) is the latest book released by the Winnipeg Architecture Foundation illustrated by Kaj Hasselriis. Follow the Golden Boy on an adventure!

Influenza 1918: Disease, Death and Struggle in Winnipeg by Esyllt Jones was published back in 2007 but, given the current COVID-19 situation, it might make for interesting reading about the city's struggle with the influenza pandemic of 1918 -19. (McNally Robinson, Chapters)
Jim Blanchard is back with the third instalment of his series on Winnipeg's history. He's taken us through the boom of 1912, the turbulence of World War I and now the uncertain 1920s. (U of M Press, McNally, Chapters) 
David Spector's Assiniboine Park: Designing and Developing a People's Playground is the dfirinitve book on the sometimes controversial history of Winnipeg's favourite park. My review. (Great Plains, McNally, Chapters)
Matthew Komus follows up his 2014 book Haunted Winnipeg with a collection of scary tales from Haunted Manitoba. (McNally, Chapters)
Winnipeg 1919: The Strikers' Own History of the Winnipeg General Strike is an update of the 1974 book with a new introduction and essay. (McNally, Chapters)
The Graphic History Collective's 1919: A Graphic History of the Winnipeg General Strike tells the story of the strike in graphic novel format. Here's a video preview of the book and a CBC interview with its author. (McNally, Chapters, Between the Lines.)

Coming of Age: A History of the Jewish People of Manitoba This nearly 500 page book tells the story of the small but influential Jewish community of Winnipeg. (McNally, Jewish Heritage Centre)

Gordon Goldsborough is back with MORE Abandoned Manitoba. This time, he focuses more on the history of abandoned structures in rural Manitoba. (Great Plains, McNally, Chapters)

North East Winnipeg Area History part one and two are limited-run books produced by the North East Winnipeg Historical Society that explores the history of Elmwood, East Kildonan and North Kildonan. (Volume I at McNally, Volume 2 at McNally)

Rooster Town is the story of the life and death of this largely Metis community that stood near where the Grant Park Shopping Centre is now. Companion pieces about the research that went into this book can be found here and here.  (U of M Press, McNally, Chapters)
Memories of the Moonlight Special and Grand Beach Train Era takes you back to the firsts half of the 20th century when trains brought eager tourists to these resort beach communities. (Borealis Press, McNally)

In Snacks: A Canadian Food History Janis Thiessen tells the back story of Canadian party favourites such as Old Dutch Potato Chips, Hawkins Cheezies and Ganong chocolates. (U of M Press, McNally Robinson)

Jeffrey Thorsteinson (architectural historian) and Brennan Smith (art historian) team up in Green Blankstein Russell and Associates: An Architectural Legacy. This local company went on to become one of Canada's preeminent modernist architecture firms of the 1950s and 60s. (WAF shop, McNally, Chapters)

Bryan Scott and Bartley Kives are back with their second installment of unique photos and commentary. (See below for their first offering.) Stuck in the Middle 2 ventures where Stuck in the Middle didn’t: outside the Perimeter. (Great Plains, McNally, Chapters)

Photographer John Paskievich revisits the places he photographed in the 1970s – 1990s for his book in his book The North End in The North End Revisited.  (U of M Press, McNally Robinson, Chapters)

The Winnipeg Architecture Foundation continues to add items to its bookshelf. Check out the Colour Your City colouring book featuring dozens of Winnipeg's best known buildings. There is also a new children's guide called Exchange Marks the Spot and their ever-growing collection of illustrated walking tour pocket books as well.

Check out their online shop or storefront office in the Exchange District.

Residential Schools, With the Words and Images of Survivors, A National History
Residential Schools, With the Words and Images of Survivors, A National History is a first hand account of Canada's residential school system. It includes many historic photographs of students and their communities as well as images and site maps of of the school buildings. (Portage and Main Press - preview)

Gary Moir looks back at the radio stations and personalities that brought Manitobans together in the fun times and periods of crisis in On the Air: The Golden Age of Manitoba Radio. (Great Plains, McNally)

In Wish You Were Here, Stan Milosevic of shares some of his wonderful collection of colour-tinted postcards from Winnipeg's past, including the inscriptions written by the senders! (Great Plains, McNally)
Over a decade in the making, DELTA: A Prairie Marsh and its People combines history, science and beautiful photography to tell the story of this region of the province. To hear an interview with Dr. Gordon Goldsborough, one of the co-authors. (MHS, McNally)

Take a walk on Winnipeg's wild side with Haunted Winnipeg. Nine stories about some of Winnipeg's best known buildings and the creepy things that go on inside them at night. (Great Plains, McNally)
Betty: The Helen Betty Osborne Story is the latest graphic novel by David Alexander Robertson recounting the story of a dark chapter in our province's history. Illustrated by Scott B. Henderson. (McNally, Chapters)

You can never go wrong with Winnie the Pooh! here's the latest book written about the real-life bear! (Amazon, Chapters, McNally) Also, check out this review in The Guardian.
Portage and Main Press' Tales from Big Spirit series of graphic novels tell the stories of key Indigenous figures in history, including Tommy Prince, Gabriel Dumont and Thanadelthur. (Portage and Main Press, McNally Robinson)

Brian Darragh, one of Winnipeg's last streetcar operators, put together this look back at our forgotten streetcar heritage. Check out the accompanying website. (McNally, Friesen's)
The Patriotic Consensus  Unity, Morale, and the Second World War in Winnipeg by Dr.  Jody Perrun takes a look at what it was like in Winnipeg while World War II raged overseas. Hear my interview with the author. (McNally, Amazon)
The Roblin goes behind the scenes of Adelaide Street's Roblin Hotel, Canada's last men's only hotel and beer parlour. Check out my my interview with the author. (McNally)
This is from 2013, but a book every Winnipegger should own. Imagining Winnipeg a collection of some of L. B. Foote's most interesting photographs of early Winnipeg, many never before published. (U of M Press, McNally, Chapters)

Also from 2013 is 300 Years of Beer: An Illustrated Guide to Brewing in Manitoba. Meticulously researched and full of many never before seen images of breweries and beer memorabilia from locations across Manitoba. (Great Plains, McNally, Amazon)
Still around is Russ Gourluck's 2012 offering: Silver Screens on the Prairies. Be sure to check out his previous works and pick them up before they're out of print. The Mosaic Village: An Illustrated History of Winnipeg’s North End and his books on the Winnipeg Tribune, Eaton's and Portage Avenue. (Great Plains, McNally)


Prairie History is the quarterly journal of the Manitoba Historical Society. Single copies can be purchased at McNally Robinson or get it free with your membership in the MHS. Launched in 2020, it replaces the journal Manitoba History. For back issues of both contact the MHS office.

No more snickering because The Beaver is now called Canada's History Magazine. Canada's History Society also publish Kayak: Canadian History for Kids. Both are produced right here in Winnipeg and you can order gift subscriptions through the links above.

Also, check out their Pierre Burton beaver bow ties and other items in their online shop.


It's Winnipeg. It's winter. It's gonna get cold. Who wouldn't want an HBC blanket? If that is a little pricey for you, HBC has a range of products bearing their stripes, from mugs and teapots to socks and toques.

Manitoba celebrates its sesquicentennial next year and the Manitoba 150 shop has some nice t-shirts, toques and caps on their website and select retailers around town.


Many museums have their own shops where you're sure to find something unique. Due to ongoing COVID restrictions and seasonal closures it is best to contact the museums first to check out their hours.

Here are links to some of them: St. Boniface Museum - Manitoba Museum - Daly House (Brandon) -
Mennonite Heritage Village (Steinbach) - New Iceland Heritage Museum (Gimli)

The Winnipeg Art Gallery has a brand new, 2,520 square foot gift shop featuring unique books, jewellery, artwork and mugs.

The gift shop at Dalnavert Museum has a selection of books, jewellery and artwork.

Besides their book collection, the Winnipeg Architecture Foundation has a wide selection of merchandise featuring iconic Winnipeg buildings, such as pins, fridge magnets, mugs, tea towels and more.

The St. Boniface Museum Boutique has a wide range of items, including Metis flags, mugs, voyageur sashes, toques, and replica Red River carts.

The Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada's Windsock Gift Shop has clothing, toys, models, books and more that celebrate our aviation heritage.
The Golden Boy Gift Shop at the Manitoba Legislature celebrates everything Manitoba. From Manitoba crested glasses and mugs to Golden Boy scarves and toques.


From artist Kristina Dimitrova you can buy prints of maps for your favourite neighbourhood, small town, provincial park or lake. She also has watercolours of city streetscapes, including the gone but not forgotten Winnipeg Arena. Contactless pickup is available.
Elaina El's beautiful paintings capture iconic Winnipeg streetscapes.
Heritage Winnipeg also has an online store that includes a collection of prints by Robert J. Sweeney.

Grain elevators are quickly disappearing from Manitoba's rural landscape. Artist Dunc Malcolm captures many of them in his collection of prints. 
From our finest buildings to our grungiest back lanes, Winnipeg photographer Bryan Scott (Winnipeg Love/Hate) has captured them all and his work can be seen displayed around the city. You can order prints of your favourites here.


The Old House Revival Company on Young Street has a treasure trove of historic items that can be repurposed as gifts including historic stained glass, pressed tin ceiling tiles and furniture.

The St. Vital Museum has produced a 2021 calendar featuring vintage pictures of the former city. For more information.

How about a stay in one of the city's oldest hotels? The Hotel Fort Garry still oozes the charm of early 20th century railway hotels and offers packages. It's pet friendly, too ! Dress up old school and make a weekend of it.

Take home a bit of Manitoba's cinematic history with posters, books, and DVDs from the online shop at Cinematheque. Be sure to check out  On the Trail of the Far Fur Country.

Aside from their shop, the Manitoba Museum also invites you to adopt an artefact from their collection. It costs between $35 and $500, depending on the object, and you can switch it up year after year!

Last year, the City of Winnipeg emptied out its shard yard - pieces of demolished historic buildings that were saved to be incorporated into other projects - and approached Heritage Winnipeg to help find them a home. A section of pieces are now on display and for sale at Shelmardine's.


I fall else fails, remember that most museums and heritage groups run on shoestring budgets. This year has been particularly hard due to COVID-related closures and cancelled fundraising events. Why not buy someone a membership or make a donation on their behalf ?

You can find a complete list of Manitoba museums here. Some deserving groups:

Heritage Winnipeg - Manitoba Historical SocietyDaly House Museum (Brandon) - Dunnottar Station Museum - St. Vital Historical Society - Swan Valley Historical Museum - Dalnavert Museum - Manitoba Transit Heritage Association - Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada - Settlers Rails and Trails Museum (Argyle)- Musée St. Joseph MuseumWinnipeg Railway Museum - Margaret Laurence Home (Neepawa) - Rivers Train Station Restoration Project - Winnipeg Fire Fighters Museum - Beautiful Plains Museum (Neepawa) - Marine Museum of Manitoba (Selkirk)  Transcona Historical Museum - Heritage North Museum (Thompson)  Winnipeg Streetcar 356 Restoration Project - Manitoba Sports Hall of FameWinnipegosis Railway Station Restoration Project - Manitoba Agricultural Museum (Austin) - Fort la Reine Museum (Portage) -  Winnipeg Railway Museum - Manitoba Indigenous Cultural Education Centre - New Iceland Heritage Museum