Manitoba Museum’s Nonsuch unveils hidden cargo hold in annual Boxing Day tours

Click to play video: 'Inside the Nonsuch’s cargo hold'
Inside the Nonsuch’s cargo hold
The Manitoba Museum is offering tours of the Nonsuch's cargo hold until January 7, 2024. Global's Iris Dyck reports – Dec 28, 2023

Every year, thousands of people climb aboard a ship in Manitoba but that ship hasn’t set sail in decades.

The Nonsuch is the star of the Manitoba Museum’s collection, a nod to Manitoba’s role in the fur trade. Once a vessel that sailed the Great Lakes and Canada’s West Coast, the museum was built around the replica of it.

“All the water will flow out through little holes called scuppers,” said engagement producer Erin Buelow.

On Boxing Day Nonsuch began its special tours, which allowed visitors to see an area that is normally closed off.

“That winter break is the one occasion to come and see the cargo hold. And it’s a really special time. said Buelow.

Click to play video: 'Manitoba Museum: Celebrating Special Milestones'
Manitoba Museum: Celebrating Special Milestones

The hold is where trade goods would have been stored on the original Nonsuch. It also served as a dormitory for low-ranking crew.

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Buelow says visiting the hold has become a holiday tradition for some and people wait for months to see it.

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“We get a lot of people coming and saying, Oh, I remember coming and seeing the hold when I was a kid and now they’re bringing their kids or their nieces and nephews, their friends to come and see it as well,” she said.

It’s an experience that has evolved over the years. A recent renovation was done around the exhibit in 2017, to include sound design and lighting.

The hold is only open during the museum holiday programming as preserving the boat is a year-round task.

“And people are always asking us, why can’t we go down? And, you know, it’s just it takes a lot of resources to safely guide people in and out of there. And conservation only allows us to have visitors down every so often,” Buelow said.

The ship took its last voyage in 1972 on the east coast of Canada but its history lives on in the museum.

“It’s the year 1669, and we’re in the town of Deptford, England, which still exists today, but looks very different and they’re unloading their cargo. So all of the barrels, the bales that you see beside the ship, that’s everything that they’ve taken out,” said Buelow.

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“We’re imagining it’s the moment in time at which the Nonsuch has basically just returned from the voyage to Hudson Bay,” he added.

— With files from Global’s Iris Dyck


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