BU students seek help with early 20th Century research

Student researchers are developing a labor history exhibit to mark the centennial of the Winnipeg General and Brandon Sympathy Strikes.

A trio of Brandon University students are asking the public to check their old, forgotten storage boxes for any documentation pertaining to the Winnipeg General Strike and Brandon Sympathy Strike of 1919 as part of a project to mark the centennial of the events.

The students are seeking photos, news clippings and other visual materials for inclusion in a display to be exhibited at the Brandon General Museum and in Winnipeg as part of the 1919-2019 conference later this spring. The exhibit is also expected to appear at other venues.

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“While we have found many amazing resources to help us tell these stories, we still need a number of photographs to round out coverage,” said Jenna English, a BU student working on the project alongside Bob Macumber. “Pictures having to do with Brandon area strikes – the Brandon Sympathetic Strike of 1919, the Packers Strike of 1960 and the McKenzie Seeds Strike of 1944 – would be preferable, but anything in that general area would be excellent as well.”

English, who is pursuing a career in museum studies, said historic photos containing images of people within the labor movement are being sought along with images portraying groups and individuals who were in opposition to those on strike. The latter includes pictures of police officers, city councillors or union opposition organizations such as the Law and Order League.

The project is a learning opportunity for both herself and the community, said English.

Current plans are to prepare an eight-panel exposition containing both narrative and photographic history. While English and Macumber are curating the exhibit, the work is being designed by BU Fine Arts student Dallas Flett-Wapash.

“I’ve always had an interest in labor history, but how I became curious about Brandon labor history was a happy accident,” said Macumber. Both he and English are currently studying courses in BU’s Public History Program, the department from which the exhibit is being developed.

“I was searching the BU stacks and stumbled upon a book that had ended up on the wrong shelf. It was a collection of essays about Brandon labor history. As I began to read through the book, I was fascinated by the labor history of our city. A lot has been written on the Winnipeg General Strike, so I wanted to shine some light on Brandon and its labor struggles because there are some great stories that have mostly gone unheard.”

But their research isn’t ending there. The pair are also seeking local information and photographs from the Great Depression and historical documents covering local Chinese residents.

“The Depression is an area we are struggling to find photos for – anything having to do with bread lines, struggling to find work, drifters, etcetera would be helpful,” said English. “Also, Anything having to do with Chinese workers and Chinese-owned laundromats and restaurants, such as those owned by Buddy Leeds and Danny Lim, from the 1910s to the late 1060s.”

Relevent art, letters or other materials of historical value are also being considered for the exhibition.

To get more information about the project or to make a contribution, contact English at jenna.english516@gmail.com.

–      With notes from Brandon University.

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