In the late 1940s, Don Carrothers of the Austin area became concerned about the amount of farm machinery from the pioneer era that was either being scrapped or sold out of the province; including steam engines and early kerosene tractors. Mr. Carrothers acquired a Case 22-65 steam engine, restored it to operating condition and paraded the engine on several occasions to gather community support for a museum which would collect agricultural implements from Manitoba’s pioneer era. He was successful and gathered a group of like-minded men who proceeded to form the Agricultural Memorial Museum of Manitoba in 1951. In 1952, the Museum hosted its first Threshermen’s Reunion, a display of operating pioneer equipment. The early years of the Museum were difficult ones, as money was short and the need for money to build the Museum was great. Volunteers were in plenty, however, and offered their skills and labor to the Museum. The Museum was greatly aided by the donation of land by Tom Carrothers, and this property forms the heart of the Museum today. The founders and the volunteers who followed them persevered, and gradually the Museum took shape, with the erection of display buildings, storage facilities and the other facilities needed to host visitors and house the collection.
As the Museum progressed through the 1960s, it was decided that the Museum name should be changed to the Manitoba Agricultural Museum as this was less confusing and a more accurate description.
Over the years, the Museum expanded to 320 acres; in order to provide required space for agricultural machinery demonstrations; carrying out the activities these pieces were built to do. These demonstrations included activities such as plowing, cutting and binding grain, and threshing. As well, the Museum added pioneer buildings to the collection, in order to provide a more complete picture of pioneer agriculture. Important, authentic buildings such as pioneer homes, a wooden grain elevator, an early railway station and others were acquired, moved to the Museum and set up in the Homesteader’s Village; complete with many of the items that would have been found in these buildings in the early days. Facilities such as a Grandstand was erected, washrooms and a modern campground were built for the convenience of the visitors to the Museum and Reunion.
The Museum continues to progress, as we move further into the 21th century. Donations of artifacts continue to be accepted, however, the Museum is moving towards interpretation of the collection; we’re “telling the story”. The visitor base the Museum draws from has changed over the years, so requiring the Museum to change. The population of Manitoba is now largely urban, and has been for two generations or more. Educating the visitors we attract regarding the agricultural history of the province and the prairies, how the pieces of the collection changed the direction of agriculture, and how the agricultural history of Manitoba affects the province today, is now the goal of the Manitoba Agricultural Museum. The Museum is the sole agricultural museum in Canada that does operate a range of its antique equipment during the Threshermen’s Reunion; allowing antique equipment enthusiasts, visitors and volunteers with the opportunity to gain a valuable experience of pioneer farming and equipment.