Indie saying no indie

B. J. Hales, avid naturalist and educator

naturalist B.J. Hales Collection

Four mammals from 700-piece Collection B. J. Hales Collection which is on display at the Brandon General Musuem and Archives.

Naturalist Benjamin Hales Heritage Brandon

Benjamin Jones Hales photo: Heritage Brandon

The purpose of the B.J. Hales Museum of Natural History is to collect, preserve and display artifacts of the natural history of Manitoba.

The Brandon School Division and the Brandon General Museum and Archives officially signed a five-year loan agreement of the B.J. Hales Collection in  2013.

The 700-800 piece Collection includes 600 birds, 50 mammals a bird egg collection and a First Nations artifact collection.


History Timeline:

1913: B. J. Hales acquired the George Atkinson naturalist collection.

The Atkinson items formed the nucleus of what grew to become the B.J. Hales collection.

The collection was stored/displayed at the Brandon Normal School.

1942 : The Brandon Normal School building was taken over by the Department of National Defence for military purposes.

The collection was transferred to Central School and Fleming School and then to the offices of the school board in 1948.

1964: Brandon College (now Brandon University) took over the collection.

2008: The collection was returned to the Brandon School Division, the legal owners, and stored at Earl Oxford School.

Brandon School Division

Benjamin Jones Hales’ interest in preserving Manitoba’s wildlife specimens led him to acquire the collection of taxidermist George Atkinson, in 1913.

The Atkinson Collection was the nucleus of what would later become the Hales Collection.

Through the years Hales organized and added to the Collection.

It was exhibited at Brandon Normal School, where he was Principal from 1911 to 1938.

At a time when other influential Manitoba naturalists such as Dr. Frank Leith Skinner and Ernest Thompson Seton were attaining prominence, Hales was pursuing his avid interest in the flora and fauna of the western prairies.

He established a reputation as an author and naturalist.

He corresponded extensively and exchanged specimens with many prominent naturalists in both Canada and the United States.

Hales published three books: Selected Western Flora, (1915), which was authorized by the Advisory Board of the Department of Education for use in High Schools and Collegiate Institutes in Manitoba, Forests and Trees, (1919) and Prairie Birds, (1927).

Hales, with the assistance of H. L. Patmore, the well-known Brandon nurseryman, transformed the Normal School grounds into spacious lawns and gardens.

The gardens contributed significantly to the education of students and inspired other schools to landscape their school yards.

He  was especially interested in the native trees of Manitoba and provided rural schools with specimens.

Teachers could secure saplings from the Normal School Nursery.

They also recieved planting instructions and advice on the varieties of trees suitable for the soil, exposure and location of their particular school.

Benjamin Hales was a prominent member of the community.

He played an active role in Brandon civic affairs as an Alderman on City Council from 1920 to 1923, and as Chairman of the City’s Parks Board for 19 years.

–  Brandon Normal School, Manitoba Historic Resources Branch, 1986



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011sepia photo by Jo-Anne Douglas

photograph by Jo-Anne Douglas

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The Rotunda, Prince Edward Hotel, 1920

Interior view of the Prince Edward Hotel’s lobby with round columns, furniture, and ornamental plants.

Source: Peel’s Prairie Provinces, a digital initiative of the University of Alberta Libraries.


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