People passionate about nature

100 Years of NM's Indoor Program

By Sandy HayGlass (with lots of help from Donna Danyluk, Randy Mooi and Julia Schoen)

Indoor educational programs have been an integral part of Nature Manitoba’s activities for 100 years! Nature education goes hand in hand with outdoor activities, and these programs offer a warm, indoor nature experience during the cooler months of the year.

Way back in 1920, Nature Manitoba (then called the Natural History Society) offered four indoor programs per month from October to April! These were the only winter programs offered during NM’s first 50 years. With no television or internet at that time they would have been very welcome activities for NM members. 

Indoor programs continue even now when so much is available online and on television. The informative presentations on relevant topics, the opportunity for questions and discussion, and the opportunity to learn from and connect with other members and nature enthusiasts are key to the program’s ongoing success. 

Looking at the programs over the last 100 years, some things are constant and some things have changed. A diversity of topics (including entomology, herpetology, geology, ornithology, ichthyology, mammals, microscopy and archaeology) is a key element in every program. 

In 1920, topics ranged from insects and flowers to Manitoba fruit and birds. 

Above: A brochure for some of NM's first indoor programs 100 years ago (© Randy Mooi, Manitoba Museum)

Back then programs were called lectures and demonstrations. The names were changed to Discovery Evenings and Workshops in order to sound more welcoming and inviting to the public. 

Above: Front and Back of a 1927/28 Indoor Program brochure (© Randy Mooi, Manitoba Museum)

Locations for the programs also changed over the years. They moved from the Manitoba Museum to different University of Manitoba lecture theatres and laboratories to the current Centre Cultural Franco Manitoban and Kelvin high school facilities.

By 1927, member nights were already a key component of the indoor program, and their format has remained consistent over the years. Every year, the AGM includes an address from the president. The following introduction of the 1932 speech by  Dr H.M. Speechley is of particular interest as it talks about the formation of the Manitoba Naturalist’s Society.

Above: Part of a handwritten speech given to members in 1932 (© Randy Mooi, Manitoba Museum)

Each year NM offers one nature travel presentation. In 1927, “A botanist’s Trip to Hawaii” must have been a memorable night. In the late 1940s, “A gardener visits Europe” was the theme. In 1990, Wild Elephants of African entertained members. In the last few years, Birding in the Gambia (Gene Walz) and Birding in Georgia(Rudolf Koes) were the great travel nature travel logs.

Over the decades, topics of popular scientific interest have changed. In 1927, “Rust in Western Canada” was a hot topic. By the 1990s, talks focused on issues like sustainability, the Experimental Lakes, and arctic research. One of NM’s most contemporary scientific talks was about the lake Winnipeg Fishery.  Demonstrations and workshops have been similarly diverse.

Above: Front and Back of 1946/47 Indoor Program Brochure (© Randy Mooi, Manitoba Museum)

Above: Front and Back of 1947/48 Indoor Program Brochure (© Randy Mooi, Manitoba Museum)

One thing that has always been consistent is Nature Manitoba members’ interest in birding, which is reflected in the Indoor Program. Many early demonstrations focused on birds, including lectures such as “Anatomy and Classification of Birds”, “Romance of Birds”, Bird Banding”, “Migration theories” and “The Cuckoo’s Secret”. 

Another topic that has always drawn interest is mushroom identification. NM has been putting on mushroom ID workshops for decades. For many years these workshops took place at NM’s Victoria Beach cabin. These workshops still fill up quickly each year. (See bottom of this article for a photo gallery of mushroom finds from NM workshops in the 1960s.)

Above: Indoor Program workshops sometimes include a hands-on outdoor event like this mushroom identification outing at Victoria Beach, 1967 (from NM archives)

The following examples from the last 20 years of workshops are a good representation of workshop offerings over the last one hundred years: 

Birds: Hawks, Owls, Shorebirds, Warblers, Thrushes and Sparrows
Insects: Bees, Spiders, Ticks, Dragonflies, Caterpillars and Butterflies
Mammals: Bats, Cougars and ID of Animal Tracks and Skulls
Plants: Mushrooms, Lichens, Ferns, Trees, Native Plants, Bonsai Basics, Grasses and Sedges
Sky Events: Astronomy, Eclipses, Rainbows and Tornadoes
Environment: Car Co-ops and Composting 
Geology: the Ice Age and Rocks and Minerals
The Great Outdoors: Back Country Camping, Cold Weather Endurance and Survival Skills, Urban Parks and Backyard Wildlife Habitat

Nature Manitoba has also offered a First Aid Hands-on Workshop for Trip Leaders, as well as a workshop by the youngest presenter ever (13 years old) on “The Genetics and Science of Growing Giant Pumpkins”.

Above: In 2016, Milan Lukes at age 13 was the youngest person to deliver a Nature Manitoba workshop (photo by Julia Schoen)

Of course putting on these events takes hours of planning and coordinating. NM has been fortunate enough to have many dedicated, passionate and knowledgeable Indoor Program Coordinators over the years. These coordinators generously volunteer their time, and the Indoor Program would not be possible without their hard work.

Some of the recent volunteer coordinators include Alain and Cindy Louer, Julia Schoen, Donna Danyluk, Diane Beaven, Ruby Tekauz, Marilyn Latta, Kim Monson, Ardythe McMaster and many more. Additional committee members and entrance volunteers (such as Les McCann, Joe Leven, John and Katharine Schultz) provide essential support.

In conclusion, it’s wonderful to be a part of a continuum of nature lovers celebrating offering nature education in Manitoba. At the time of the 100th Anniversary it’s great to be able to look at the engaging programs offered in the past and look forward to learning more at future Discovery Evenings and Workshops.

Want to know more? Check out these links:

Discovery Evenings (2010- 20)

Workshops (2012 to 20) 

Discovery Evening (1986 -2010)

Workshop presenters and topics (1997 - 2012)

2005-6 overview of the indoor program as it celebrates 85 years of the indoor program

Click on the images below to view the full size gallery.