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History

About the Children’s Museum

Linda Isitt and a group of friends began working on the concept of a children’s museum in the City of Winnipeg in 1982. By 1983 the Children’s Museum had established itself as a non-profit, charitable organization with Linda Isitt as Executive Director.

The Children’s Museum first opened its doors on June 21, 1986 in a 4,000 square foot space in a 90-year-old warehouse on the edge of Winnipeg’s cultural district. The museum had three permanent galleries: The Grain Elevator and Train, Making Sense and The Big Top.

The museum was a success from the beginning. In its first year, over 65,000 guests visited the museum; over 500 families joined as members and more than 800 school, nursery and daycare groups visited the facility.

On June 30, 1988 Phase II of the Children’s Museum opened to the public. Despite doubling the museum’s gallery space, Phase II could not keep up with demand. Staff worked in an open loft without divided spaces. The museum’s potential continued to grow.

By the fall of 1989 plans were in motion for yet another expansion, with the hope that within two or three years the museum would have a permanent home. On June 1, 1994 following a $4 million capital campaign, the Children’s Museum opened in its current home at The Forks.


About the Building

The Children’s Museum is housed in the oldest surviving train repair facility in Manitoba. The building was constructed in 1889 by the Northern Pacific and Manitoba Railway Company. It originally included a machine and blacksmith shop, engine house and a ten-stall roundhouse and turntable.

The museum building is the only surviving building of an original complex that included two roundhouses, freight sheds, an elegant hotel and a large station. The industrial site became Canadian National’s East Yards before the complex was transformed into The Forks. Members of various railway craft unions worked at the East Yards for Northern Pacific, Manitoba Canadian Northern and Canadian National railways. Engines and cars entered the engine house on tracks positioned over pits. Repairs were undertaken from beneath the engines and cars and were then passed onto the turntable to be pivoted on to one of the ten roundhouse stalls.

After 1909 the building fell into disuse. Canadian National locomotive repairs were undertaken increasingly at the Fort Rouge, Transcona, and Symington shops. However, the building continued to be used in a variety of capacities until the 1960s.

In 1993-94 the building was renovated to become the current home of the Children’s Museum.