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Virtual Tour of the New Iceland Heritage Museum

Settler’s chest exhibit from the Museum

Most of us have had to adapt to the use of Zoom or other online meeting tools whether we like it or not, and they certainly have their pros and cons. However, there is no doubt that they can provide opportunities for experiences and encounters not available to us in person. Our February 28 Speaker Event was a perfect example of this truth.

How many of us will have the chance to tour the New Iceland Heritage Museum in Gimli, let alone in the company of a guide as knowledgeable and gracious as our Zoom host Tammy Anderson was? Raised in Gimli, as a young woman she was highly motivated to learn more about her Icelandic heritage, and spent three years in Iceland. On her return to Canada in 1995, she got involved in the process of establishing the museum, which has since become a great asset to the community as it approaches the 150th anniversary of New Iceland’s original settlement.

With our fearless President Constantine expertly guiding the virtual controls, Tammy led us on a group tour through the exhibits. We learned how the first Icelandic settlers established their own New Iceland Constitution in 1897. Arriving from Winnipeg up the Red River by flat-bottomed boats, they spent a first, very harsh winter, in tents. Soon a log schoolhouse was built and then larger cabins that could accommodate up to about a dozen people were constructed. The settlement managed to survive despite a devastating small pox epidemic and a rift that divided the community and led to many of the original settlers leaving to settle in North Dakota. But those who remained persevered and many of their descendants still live in the area today.

It was fascinating to learn about the influence of the Indigenous people on the community, as well as the Ukrainian and Eastern European cultural influences. This blending of cultures while maintaining its Icelandic roots, is what, to me, makes the settlement such a special part of Canadian history.

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