News / Winnipeg

Winnipeggers flock to Police Museum in record-breaking numbers

The move downtown has been bigger for the Winnipeg Police Museum than anyone expected.

Volunteer Ernie Tomchuk tells visitor Jackie Elston the buffalo fur coats worn by officers in the 1960s weigh over 25 pounds and cost $3000.

Keila DePape/ For Metro

Volunteer Ernie Tomchuk tells visitor Jackie Elston the buffalo fur coats worn by officers in the 1960s weigh over 25 pounds and cost $3000.

More people visited the Winnipeg Police Museum this past weekend than it averaged in an entire year at its old location.

Museum curator, retired Constable Randy James, said he expected the move to Smith Street to attract bigger crowds, but he didn’t expect attendance to be multiplied nearly tenfold.

“In our last location we had 400-500 visitors a year,” said James. “In the last six months we’ve topped 5000.”

Over the weekend, well over 500 people checked out the museum while it held extended hours for Doors Open Winnipeg, an annual festival of free tours hosted by Heritage Winnipeg.

To encourage visitors to check out the police museum, Heritage Winnipeg boasted “the history of the police is the history of Winnipeg, as police were there for every major event.”

James agreed, adding, “Winnipeg has quite a history—there’s a lot of fascinating stories here.”

Retired officers like James staff the museum to share stories about its myriad memorabilia, including weapons, old books with handwritten entries, motorcycles, and a slick 78’ Ford Custom.

The archives date back to the 1880s, but it’s a jail cell from 1911 that captures the attention of kids who squeal when its iron door slams, clinging to the bars to pose for parents’ photos.

In another room, visitor Jackie Elston strokes a buffalo fur coat worn by officers in the ‘60s, remembering winters of her childhood.

 “We’d see them (police officers) from the bus going to school in the morning, walking through the snow,” said Elston. 

“You did get a sense that everything was okay in the world when you saw them.”

Elston remembers the coats commanded respect, the likes of which she’s not certain today’s officers receive. 

James said that a look back and learning about police history can promote a better understanding of what officers go through on the street today.

“I think a lot of the time you look at a police officer, and you look at the clothes he/she’s wearing, and you don’t know anything about the person inside,” said James.

“The museum helps to humanize the whole position.”

The Winnipeg Police Museum is free to the public and is open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.

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