First Minute Book for Winnipeg City Council now online

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Meeting minutes date back to January 19, 1874

A legal-sized book is open to a type written page. The pages of the book are ripped and weathered but in tact.
The first Minute Book is too fragile to handle with the initial Meeting Minutes typed to help preserve the original.

Diligently recorded by hand 147 years ago, the earliest Meeting Minutes for Winnipeg City Council have been carefully, and manually, transcribed for everyone to view.

The entire first Minute Book is now available online and includes all Council Meeting Minutes from January 19, 1874 through December 25, 1875.

“The original Minute Book is in the City of Winnipeg Archives, but too fragile to handle so making these records available online will help preserve the original materials by reducing handling,” said Sarah Ramsden, Senior Archivist at the City of Winnipeg.

“The combination of having online copies of the Meeting Minutes and transcriptions of the handwritten pages makes these records more accessible than ever before.”

Minute Books are the official record of decisions made by Council and shed light on municipal government, resource allocation, and service delivery. They also refer to topics debated, reports considered, by-laws introduced, communications received, decisions reached, and votes recorded during council meetings.

A scanned image of two pages side-by-side. The image on the left is a handwritten page of meeting minutes labelled February 3, 1874. The right side image is a scanned page of a typewritten page from meeting minutes with the same information
The digital files from the first Minute Book feature the initial handwritten Meeting Minutes alongside a typed version of what appears on the page.

Ramsden said it was important to make transcriptions because the handwriting can be very difficult to decipher. However, not all the handwriting from the book could be deciphered and illegible or hard-to-read words were marked as such.

“The work would not have been possible without a dedicated team of City Clerk’s employees, from both the Board of Revision and Archives, who transcribed the handwriting,” said Ramsden, adding much of this work was done remotely during the pandemic.

As employees were working on the project, they noted that the first Council Meetings dealt a lot with appointments and establishing rules and proceedings for City services and operations. Other topics that came up frequently were sidewalks, railways, and establishing a market.

A close up of a shelf of books, the spines of the books show council minutes for years between 1920 and 1927
Minute Books at the City of Winnipeg Archives.

It is also interesting to note, that in the early years of Winnipeg City Council, there was no City Hall to meet at as it was being built. Meetings ended up being held in the upper stories of various commercial buildings near Portage Avenue and Main Street until the first City Hall was completed in 1876.

Work is underway to make more early Council Minutes available online.

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