A Flin Flon-area historian has received a provincial honour for a project meant to show off the history of the region.
Tom Heine and his latest project, called the Northwestern Museum Circuit Tour, has received distinction from a provincial group that administers and promotes museums. The tour takes the form of a guidebook of several museums around northwest Manitoba and into Saskatchewan.
Heine first thought of the idea of a guidebook for northern museums before the pandemic, calling each of the northern museums and got information together about their exhibits. His initial efforts started in early 2020, but were put on the backburner while COVID-19 raged.
In time, Heine came back to the project, applying for northern tourism funding the finish the project and produce the guidebook. He applied to Tourism North for $2,000 to cover expenses and printing, later received the money and the books began being published earlier this year.
“Six months ago, I thought, ‘I’ve got to get this guide put together. We're coming off COVID-19, we're trying to get tourists to come visit our region. This guide has got to come together.’ So, it was back to talking to the different museums and updating information, I put all the maps together, put the descriptions together and they went off to the publisher. That cost us just about dead nuts right on $2,000,” Heine said.
“Two thousand copies were printed - 1,000 went to Travel Manitoba for distribution through their tourist bureaus and I've got another 1,000 up here. Some have gone to the museums for their own distribution. It's probably one of the best regional guides that's been put together.”
That work and the finished product have received rave reviews from the Association of Manitoba Museums (AMM), Manitoba’s provincial group for community museums and exhibits. Heine, a long-time AMM board of directors member, was awarded with the group’s Award of Merit for his work on the project.
“I am pleased to inform you that the AMM will be presenting you with an award of merit for your work on the Northwestern Museum Circuit Tour,” reads correspondence from AMM vice-president Angela Smook.
In the final tour guidebook, museums in The Pas, Snow Lake, Cranberry Portage, Flin Flon, Creighton and Denare Beach are all listed, from south to north - the book mimics the path that a traveller from southern Manitoba would take going into the north.
By Heine’s count, the triangle of the Flin Flon-Snow Lake-The Pas areas has eight museums to share - The Pas boasts the Sam Waller Museum and the Charlebois Heritage Museum, Snow Lake has its local Mining Museum and Cranberry Portage has its own Heritage Museum on Railway Avenue.
In the Flin Flon area, Heine posits that the greater community has four museums of its own to share with the public - the Flin Flon Station Museum in the shadow of the Flinty statue, the Northwest Mounted Police Museum in Creighton, Denare Beach’s Northern Gateway Museum and an unconventional fourth choice - the Whitney Forum. Heine said Flin Flon’s biggest hockey rink qualifies due to its own historical exhibits, like the team’s Hall of Fame and budding memorabilia collection in the rink’s lobby.
Heine said one key of the program is that each museum is different from the last - a theme he hopes to impress in travellers from outside the north and people from the region travelling around it alike.
“Each of the museums in the area has a different theme. You're not kind of seeing the same thing over and over again,” he said.
As far as what comes next for northern museums, Heine thinks the next step ahead is through an online presence, particularly pages through social media.
“It’s almost like the sky's the limit,” Heine said.
“One of our big problems right now - and it's really part of my own fault, too - is that internet presences are important, something that personally, I don't have the expertise to put up a Facebook page, much less to maintain one. There's nothing worse than an unmaintained Facebook page.”