The story of Gimli’s rich history is told to us today through its built heritage.
The Gimli area was the cradle of Manitoba’s Icelandic community, with the first Icelanders arriving in 1875, before the area was even a part of the province. The early economy was based largely on fishing and mixed farming, but gradually began to expand as the population increased and transportation became easier.
In 1897, New Iceland was opened to settlers of different origins; Ukrainian pioneers began to arrive in the region that year, soon joined by settlers from Poland and Hungary. Each of these groups made its own cultural mark on the area, contributing to its rich cultural heritage.
In 1906, with the arrival of the railway in Gimli, came increased commerce and the opening of the area for the cottage development that is such a characteristic feature of the R.M. of Gimli as we know it today.
New Iceland Heritage Museum
The New Iceland Heritage Museum interprets the region at two separate sites.
The museum, located in the Waterfront Centre at 94–1st Avenue, is open year-round and tells the story of New Iceland through the use of dynamic multi-media exhibits featuring an 18-foot history mural and a painting that “comes to life.” Changing temporary exhibitions, a sixty-seat theatre, a tent and cabin dioramas complete the experience, along with special spaces for young visitors.
Across the street from the Waterfront Centre is the seasonally-open Lake Winnipeg Visitor Centre, dedicated to the natural history of the lake itself and our interaction with it through the local fishery. It includes a large aquarium housing local fish species and a 1940s whitefish boat. Visits outside of the summer season are possible by appointment.
While the R.M. of Gimli does not have a formal archives, there are two repositories that are available for researchers.
The Evergreen Public Library houses several binders of historic photographs (focusing on buildings and the fishing industry) and maintains a fine homestead map showing original homesteads along with a listing of homesteaders. The library also has the original binders from which the community developed our local history, The Gimli Saga.
The New Iceland Heritage Museum has a collection of archival photographs.
People interested in pursuing their family histories in more detail should also consider contacting the Manitoba Genealogical Society.