By the mid-1800s, French and Métis parishes, English, Scots, English-speaking peoples of mixed heritage, Cree and Anishinaabe families, and Selkirk settlers made the Fort the social and economic centre of a vibrant multi-cultural community. It was there in the middle of strife and turmoil that the representatives to the Assembly of Assiniboia voted to proclaim Manitoba a province, and to join the confederacy of Canada, laying the groundwork for all lands west to the Pacific and north to the Arctic to become part of confederation, thus defining our nation Canada.
Within a very short period of time after the historic vote, with the (now) City of Winnipeg rapidly growing outside the Fort wall, the decision was made to dismantle the fort. Only the North Gate, today historically designated, still stands.
Without question, Upper Fort Garry is so significant that it had to be saved from development and obscurity. Current and future generations deserve to know how important one vote by a small group of parish representatives in 1870 changed history. History will also show how another small group saved Upper Fort Garry from commercial development, in 2005, so future generations could learn from history.
But how, in these very different times, could Upper Fort Garry be revitalized, re-energized so that the story of this place would be interesting and compelling to today’s youth specifically and to people of all ages collectively? The process of re-imagining Upper Fort Garry began.
Today, you can visit Upper Fort Garry Provincial Park and experience history in a totally different way. There is no reconstruction or reenactment. The story of Upper Fort Garry is presented through interpretation, art and technology. “The Park is built upon the premise of bringing people together to learn in a unique, beautiful, and artistic space. Equal parts imagination, illumination, and entertainment, the Park seeks to transcend the discovery of facts into larger-than-life stories told through a variety of impactful exhibits, sculptures, and interactive interpretation.”
The Governor’s Gate is the only physical, historic element on the site. Nothing else is literal. The story of UFG and its buildings is presented with incredible creativity and imagination. Everything is an abstraction (interpretation) of what was actually on the site. Buildings from 1870, the year that Manitoba was formed and entered Canada, are deliniated as foundations (called “plinths” ). Park construction is strictly symbolic of what was actually there.
A massive $3 million multi-layered, 440 foot long steel sculpture symbolizes the west wall of the Fort and depicts, through its 39 icons on the wall’s 300 year chronilogical timeline, important events and places, of the area. The Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries Wall has been labeled “the largest piece of public art in Canada.”
Embedded in the Wall are more than 7000 LED lights and combined with18 channel sound, it offers visitor a new experience in viewing events and even daily life from the past. The potential for the presentations and interactive elements to grow and evolve, as technology advances, is beyond our current understanding but we do know, that the visitor experience will just keep getting better.
Technology, as offered through a free app available on the UFG website, allows you to explore the site at your own pace. You can view photos of the original buildings and read about the history on your smart phone or iPad. You can learn about the people and events that took place on this historic site in as little or as much detail as you like.
Summer of 2018 will see the addition of multiple language capabilities and sound on site information. This will add, for those with sight impairment, full accessibility to the site.