In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and discouragement from travelling out of province, those looking for both a fun and educational outing without leaving Manitoba’s borders can look no further than the Cooks Creek Heritage Museum (CCHM) and the New Iceland Heritage Museum (NIHM).
Both museums reopened in early June and are excited to be accepting visitors this summer, under new COVID-19 safety precautions.
The CCHM showcases the history of Eastern European Slavic immigrants who settled in the Cooks Creek, Man. area, what life was like for them in Canada and the cultural items and traditions they brought with them from overseas.
The CCHM consists of the main building — converted from a rectory to a museum by priest Alois Krivanek in 1968 — and many outbuildings that include a blacksmith and woodworking shop, a wayside chapel and restored pioneer homes, which show visitors the types of buildings many immigrants inhabited as they began life in Canada.
The CCHM is jam-packed with interesting artifacts — often donated by local families who have been in the area for generations — and the museum’s knowledgeable tour guides are always happy to share the stories and history of the people who settled in the area.
However, in light of COVID-19, there are some changes in the usual operations.
Tour guides are required to wear face masks and guests are required to use hand sanitizer upon their arrival. Visitors are also encouraged to wear face masks and book tours for large groups ahead of time. Drop-in tour groups of six or more are to be split in two.
Additionally, the events usually hosted by the CCHM over the summer have been cancelled and are expected to resume in the summer of 2021.
For those unable to make it out to Cooks Creek in order to visit the museum this summer, the CCHM’s Facebook page is full of interesting information about the museum and the histories it offers.
You can even take a virtual tour of the museum through their website with audio provided by RiverCity 360.
The NIHM teaches its visitors about the story of New Iceland and the lives of the Icelandic people who settled in the area of Gimli, Man. in the 19th century.
The NIHM currently sets visitors on a self-guided tour that begins with a short video following stories of some of the Icelandic families that journeyed to Canada.
Then, guests are walked through various facets of the living experience of an Icelandic settler through multimedia exhibits that include interactive recordings, video installations and dioramas.
Currently at the NIHM, there is a visual arts exhibition called Déterré/Unearthed by Candace Lipischak, on loan from the Manitoba Arts Network until the end of August. This exhibition speaks to how nature finds a way to evolve and of the environmental issues that affect our society today.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some changes to the NIHM’s usual procedures include mandatory hand sanitizer use by all visitors, encouraging guests to wear masks and maintain social distancing standards, as well as controlling the flow of traffic into the museum and reducing building capacity.
Associated with the NIHM is the Lake Winnipeg Visitor Centre, dedicated to the fishing industry and the natural history of Lake Winnipeg.
For more information about the New Iceland Heritage Museum, please visit nihm.ca. For more information about the Cooks Creek Heritage Museum, please visit cchm.ca.