Launch Date: February 28, 2017
Location: University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections, 330 Elizabeth Dafoe Library, Fort Garry Campus.
On February 28, 1877, the University of Manitoba became the first degree-granting body in Western Canada. In this role, the newly formed institution conferred degrees to students enrolled in three colleges: St. John’s College, Manitoba College and Saint Boniface College. Though the University and the colleges were male dominated spaces at that time, one man saw the University of Manitoba as a space where a richer identity could grow. Dr. Alexander Kennedy Isbister, a Métis lawyer who spent his formative years in Manitoba, bequeathed $83,000 to the University upon his death in 1883. His will expressly stated that the trust be used for students of merit, no matter their gender and “without distinction of race, creed, language or nationality.” While this request did not change the student makeup overnight, Isbister’s bequest sowed the seeds of diversity and inclusion at the University. In the years that followed, the institution would see many students who embodied Isbister’s ideal leave its halls, degree in hand.
This provision of education has impacted thousands of students throughout the University’s history. But, the institution was likewise changed by these students who enhanced education through different perspectives and new experiences, transforming the University’s identity and changing the face of the student body to one that truly reflected Isbister’s vision of education in Manitoba. In the University’s 140th year, The Legacy of Alexander Kennedy Isbister series explores the evolution of identity and diversity at the University of Manitoba and celebrates the enduring legacy of the man from which these ideas were first born: Alexander Kennedy Isbister, a man before his time.
The Legacy of Alexander Kennedy Isbister series is a multi-part exhibit that will run over the course of the University of Manitoba's 140th year. Four displays celebrating Isbister's legacy of diversity, inclusion.
Past and On-going Legacy of Alexander Kennedy Isbister Series Displays:
Sowing the Seeds: Women at the University of Manitoba
Dates: February 28, 2017 - May 26, 2017; September 5, 2017 - September 29, 2017
Part I of The Legacy of Alexander Kennedy Isbister series highlights the history and achievement of women at the University of Manitoba, starting with the admission of Jessie Holmes, the first female graduate, admitted to the University in 1886. Sowing the Seeds exhibits the University's early history, when ideas of diversity in higher education were first planted. It shows the first break into a realm once exclusive to male faculty and staff. In gaining admission to the University, women forever changed the face of the student body, and the identity of the University itself.
Students at Vimy
Dates: April 1, 2017 - June 31, 2017
Part II of The Legacy of Alexander Kennedy Isbister series was launched in harmony with the Voices from Vimy: Manitobans on the Ridge, a commemorative exhibit marking the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge co-curated by authors of the "From the Somewhere" blog featuring the war letters of Frederick Baragar. Students at Vimy highlights the contribution of students to the war effort and their willingness to defend the rights of others and to fight for equality, freedom and justice, evidence that Isbister's legacy lived on at the University. One hundred years later, we look back at the history of the University in the midst of war: a university geographically divided between its campus in Winnipeg and the battle grounds of Vimy but united in its effort to preserve freedom.
Taking Space: LGBTTQ* Students at the University of Manitoba
Dates: May 26, 2017 - September 29, 2017
Part III of The Legacy of Alexander Kennedy Isbister series launched at the beginning Winnipeg's 30th Anniversary Pride Festival. Its theme, "Resurgence: Taking Back Space", invites us to look back at the progress of the last three decades while recognizing that much more remains to be done. In concordance with this theme, Taking Space provides a history of the Campus Gay Club, an association with first took space at the University in 1971. In taking space, the Campus Gay Club and its successor organizations have broken barriers for nearly fifty years, striving to create a safe and more inclusive campus. Their activism is a testament to Isbister's vision of a University that would encourage, support and celebrate diversity.
An Active Spirit: Strengthening Indigenous Presence on Campus
Dates: June 1, 2017 - October 2, 2017
Part IV of The Legacy of Alexander Kennedy Isbister series explores this history of activism among Indigenous and Métis students. An Active Spirit details a history of failures and successes at the University, but also the resilience of our students. The exhibit invites you to reflect on where we came from and where we are going by re-examining and re-contextualizing these questions in the present