Carnegie Library to get $12.6M makeover to bring Winnipeg Archives home

The City of Winnipeg Archives are set to return to their original home.

Councillors on the property committee voted Thursday to approve funding for the restoration of the Carnegie Library, which was heavily damaged by flooding in 2013.

Since then, sensitive documents spanning the city’s 150-year history have been stored in a warehouse on Myrtle Street, which historians and archivists worried did not have the appropriate equipment to preserve them.

“Nobody expected that the archives was going to spend a decade in … what is  [basically] a warehouse in the industrial district,” said Shelley Sweeney, archivist emeritus at the University of Manitoba.

“It was, sort of, just temporarily put there, and it’s in an extremely difficult location to find. It’s not particularly accessible.”

A 2016 report noted the building on Myrtle didn’t have appropriate space for conservation and preservation treatment to enable appraisal and description of fragile paper records dating as far back as 1874. 

It also noted visits had declined significantly compared to the original location at 380 William Ave.

Workers assemble sections of the Winnipeg aqueduct in August 1915.
The City of Winnipeg Archives include historic photos and government documents from the last 150 years of the city’s history. This photo shows workers assembling sections of the Winnipeg aqueduct in August 1915. (City of Winnipeg Archives)

The preliminary 2023 budget includes $12.6 million to build a new centre for the archives at the Carnegie Library.

Assuming council approves the final budget at its meeting on March 22, work will begin this year on designs for the new archives centre. 

Plans include a private viewing area.

“If there are families that come to look at these materials, say for residential schools or whatever, that they would have a private space … to express their feelings without feeling like people are watching them,” Sweeney said.

Property committee chair Sherri Rollins said the project is especially appropriate, given this is the city’s 150th anniversary.

“It’s an exciting day when you get to make sure that you’re not only doing an amazing place-making project for our 150 celebration in Winnipeg, but you’re really repairing a relationship with archivists who knew we were kind of doing them dirty, with respect to that archive.

The renovations on the Carnegie Library are expected to take three years to complete.