Village News

The Real Heroes

     Who is your hero? Is it someone who knows and loves you or someone who wouldn’t even notice you in the room? Our world has many superficial heroes that are big with flair, but small in character. However, like earlier generations of Mennonites, we should not forget to esteem those who have just cleared the path before us. Heroes don’t have to be on a pedestal, untouchable, but someone who when they see us coming down their path begin cheering us on. The Mennonites that moved to Canada did not do it so that they could live a better life, but so that the generations after them could. Let us not forget that.

     At the Mennonite Heritage Village Museum (MHV), we don’t commemorate the outstanding lives of individuals, but the faithful (sometimes fallen) living of a community and their journey together. History is made by groups of people. The reformation, abolishment of slavery, democracy or civil rights would not have happened if there was not a group of people committed to its fulfillment. Sure, there are lightning rods and specific moments to note, but much is leading up to those breakthroughs and then communities that build on them afterwards. As Mahatma Gandhi said and practiced, “A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.” Larger-than-life heroes don’t build community; faithful-loving-ordinary people build community.

     What I find fascinating about the Anabaptist reformation is how we have a diverse movement of people around Europe. A Bible study group in Zurich discovering what a baptism of adult faith is, while in northern Germany and the Netherlands Catholic priests like Menno Simons articulating a new way of doing church and living like Jesus. Then another group gathering in Schleitheim, Switzerland to produce a small book about the basics of this new-found movement (the Schleitheim confession) that people could carry with them across the continent and so on. People started meeting in homes to discuss these new ideas of community and faith. Next, they actually resettle and form little colonies so that they could pursue a new way of being. These communities and these discussions continue to this day and we are hosting some of them at MHV. I wonder, what is our on-going mission as a community in today’s world, what is our next mission?

     Museums like MHV can become more intriguing if you have this perspective. The art, the buildings, the ideas you see are the products of ordinary people like you. Make it personal, let it inspire you; history does not belong to the extraordinary people out there, but to you, to those alongside you and with your connection to those who have gone before you. We are in this journey together. See you soon at MHV and again in a hundred years as part of our community memorial!

 

Calendar of Events

April 2, Annual General Meeting – 7:30 PM

Village News

Gary head pic glasses

The Value of Flashbacks

     One of my favourite parts of reading a newspaper is the ‘flashback’ segment. ‘Flashbacks’ allow us to see how far we have come or changed. If we’ve made good progress we can be grateful and breathe a prayer of thanks. Healthy progress is not something to take for granted. Mennonites around the world can attest to how quickly a society can change. We’ve witnessed violent revolutions in Russia and genocides in Africa. It is good to ponder what is different, what is changing and what needs to be held fast to.

     Recently I read a flashback about our Village Centre that was opened in 1990. It was fascinating to hear about their hopes and dreams for it, the long-time support of retired Manitoba Premier Ed Schreyer and other officials, and how MHV would now be more than just a local museum. The Village Centre building has certainly enabled us to expand our foci and host a wide variety of groups for education and dialogue.

     At the time Schreyer declared to the guests attending the official opening that, “Mennonites have a demonstrated ability to cope with rapid political change in the various countries where they have settled. Countries now undergoing dramatic change may need help from Western nations for them to become free and prosperous nations.” We preserve our heritage so that we can keep learning from it and have something to share with the world around us. May we not lose what we have experienced and learned these recent centuries. Oppression and violent domination keeps finding its way into every nation, sometimes subtly and slowly, and we need to be equipped to respond to it in an active peace-making manner. This is one of the purposes for the existence of the MHV.

     I am so thankful for our Village Centre, for how it helps our wonderful staff and volunteers to do their job well, how it facilities a variety of community functions with three different meeting rooms, for the meaningful content in the main gallery, for the Gerhard Ens gallery that showcases new topics annually, for the quilting room which allows this art to continue and be enjoyed by others, for the large curatorial wing (that you never see) and all that it stores and helps us to preserve. Connected to all that is the original museum centre which is now our auditorium; a beautiful room to host the community.

     This reminds me of a Jean Vanier quotation (founder of L’Arche, an international network for those with developmental challenges): “One of the marvelous things about community is that it enables us to welcome and help people in a way we couldn’t as individuals. When we pool our strength and share the work and responsibility, we can welcome many people, even those in deep distress, and perhaps help them find self-confidence and inner healing.” Let’s keep growing in our ability to do that. Acknowledged in that newspaper flashback was also the money that was raised and the work that was done to build the Village Centre. Yes, we have certainly come a long way together, but we also have a lot more to do.

 

 

Calendar of Events

April 2, MHV Annual General Meeting, 7:30pm

Village News

Running and Relaxing

     Recently my friend shared some of the things people say when he tells them he’s a curator and works at a museum. Among the many reactions, he said, people have commented, “Oh! Working in a museum must be so relaxing!” Anyone who works at a museum and was within earshot of this comment chuckled knowingly. Relaxing? Well, we hope that our visitors feel at home and, in a way, that their visits to our museums are relaxing, but this is likely not how any museum professional I know would answer.

     In Steinbach I often encounter people who ask, with a puzzled look on their faces, “So what do you do all winter when the museum is closed?”  There are a few ways to answer this question and the first is from the perspective of the big picture. I assure the person that the museum is in fact open all year round – only the heritage buildings in the village are closed up for the winter. But then there’s the more specific answer. What do I do all winter? While it isn’t visible to the public, behind the scenes, the busiest time of year for the curatorial department is exactly when it would seem we should be right in the middle of all that ‘relaxing’ that some suppose takes place for curators! 

From January to June, me and Assistant Curator, Jenna Klassen, live with a foot in two worlds: we continue to promote and tend to our current exhibit, The Art of Mennonite Clocks, on display in the Gerhard Ens Gallery until April 2019, while at the same time turning our attention to our next exhibit, The Russländer, set to open in May. The beginning stages of exhibit development always begin in June of the previous year with selecting the exhibit topic, figuring out how we’ll tell the story, writing grant applications, and drafting the exhibit budget. So, in a way, we have been planning for this new exhibit for over six months now; however, writing the actual exhibit content, selecting photos for the panels, working with the graphic designer, choosing artefacts that will highlight the exhibit themes, and writing labels for every object, truly begins in January. 

From the day we start this process in January up to, and often including, the day we open the exhibit in spring, it is like a race.  When the unexpected happens, as it inevitably does, it often seems unclear of how, exactly, we’ll make it to the finish line. But then, life is full of mysteries and sometimes you need to embrace them! To continue with the metaphor of a race, while we’re running the last hundred meters of the competition, we need to divide our attention once more to look ahead to the coming year. 

In this way, a good portion of our year feels like it’s spent running, but what about the relaxing?  This is something that, I think, can be woven into the very fabric of the work that I do, if I can remember to pause to appreciate it. One of the things I think I’m most privileged in is that my job comes with unfettered access to the outdoor village and its heritage buildings.  These buildings come with enormous challenges of their own as they need constant care, maintenance, resources, and planning for the next major restoration project.  But when the running gets too tiring, these historic buildings also provide a shelter and a touchstone to remind me why I do what I do and why I run so hard in the first place. Stopping to take a breath when you’re in the middle of running a race is perhaps a hard lesson to learn, and one we all probably need to learn over and over.  But that’s part of what makes MHV so special: if I stop to listen and take a moment to walk through the village and consider the history that is present there, I do slowly learn the lesson that the relaxing is just part of the running, and that the running is only meaningful because it’s a small part of something so much larger.

 

 

Calendar of Events

March 3, Vespers Service – 7:00 PM

Village News

Love, Work and Play

 My first week as Executive Director is complete and another has begun. I am excited to be a part of it all; interviews with the Carillon, getting to know the staff and they me, working on a budget to present to the finance committee and then to the board. I met Jack Thiessen, an emeritus professor of German who is doing a book launch of a Low German dictionary with us. I’ve met with service technicians showing me what is still wrong with our HVAC system. In between those meetings were more visitors, phone calls, email, questions from staff and finally helping out at our Winter Carnival on Saturday.

 What a beautiful sunny day for our Winter Carnival! I saw fathers making getaway caves in the snow banks for their kids, mothers snuggling their toddlers on the horse wagon, children playing keep-away hockey on the rink and everyone roasting marshmallows by our bonfire. Our main street provided an opportunity for good old outdoor play.  This kind of interaction with care-givers and nature is exactly what our kids need in our new digital world.

 As I think back to my first week at MHV, I’m reminded of the three essential drives in life that child psychologist, Dr. Gordon Neufeld teaches; love, work and play. If you can find all three in one place, you have found gold. And that I have at MHV.

 

Calendar of Events

March 3, Vespers Service – 7:00 PM

Village News

The time has come to pass the torch, hand over the keys, change the sign on the office door, or whatever other metaphor one might apply to the situation. My term as Executive Director at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) has come to an end, and retirement has begun. As of Monday, February 11, Gary Dyck has assumed responsibility for the position.

   To introduce Gary to our readers, I conducted a brief interview with him. He responded to five questions that I posed.

   Welcome to Mennonite Heritage Village, Gary. Tell us about your background (growing up, education, previous work, etc.).

   I grew up just a couple of miles north of MHV. In 1993 I graduated from the Steinbach Regional Secondary School (SRSS) with a double Marketing/Accounting diploma and eventually was able to complete a Master of Arts degree in Global Studies from Providence Seminary. I loved growing up in Steinbach, and with that solid foundation my family and I were able to go overseas for 18 years, where I served as a holistic development worker. My roles during my time in Central Asia and China included directing the Literature and Translation Department of a large humanitarian organization and founding an organic fertilizer company for low-income farmers.

   What is it about MHV that attracted you to the role of Executive Director?

   This past summer I moved back to Steinbach with my family. MHV was our first and second choice to reengage with our community. It truly is a world-class museum, covering 500 years of a history and culture that our world needs to know about and learn from. Working at MHV is a terrific opportunity for me to rejoin a community I treasure and to use my social entrepreneurship skills for good.

   Tell us about some of your first priorities in this role?

   There are always the urgent needs of maintaining the heritage buildings, but I also want to focus on the long-term work of making MHV more self-sustainable. My personal priority is to develop strong relationships with the staff, volunteers and wider community. I myself can only do so much, but with a community engaged, a lot more can be accomplished.

   What visions for the future do you already have for MHV?

   Oh, where do I begin? MHV has and can have so many roles. It is a wonderful resource for history, education, life skills, mental health, culture and community development. One vision I have is to increase therapeutic use of MHV for the enhancement of physical, mental and emotional health in our community. Our beautiful setting offers much to contemplate and receive from.

   What else would you like our readers to know?

   I am very thankful for this opportunity. I look forward to getting to know many of you and working alongside you.

Calendar of Events

February 15, Teen Gala – Western Night – 7:00 PM

February 16, MHV Winter Carnival – 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM

March 3, Vespers Service – 7:00 PM

 

Village News

Museum Relevance

   In my younger years I had little or no interest in history, be it Canadian history, Mennonite history or any other history. I suspect my high-school history teacher may have sadly noted my apparent apathy. It’s not uncommon to hear similar sentiments from other people, even those my age, who still have little interest in things historical.

   At Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV), we often discuss how our museum can be relevant in an environment where many people do not find history engaging. MHV needs to be a vital member of its community and its broader constituency. Our education program, which involves several thousand students annually, is one of the ways we reach our community. We hold festival days like Manitoba Day, Canada Day, Pioneer Days, Open Farm Day, and Fall on the Farm, which together attract 10,000 - 15,000 guests annually. Our facilities are available to families, businesses and other organizations for meetings, parties, picnics, receptions and the like. However, we need to be consistently relevant year round, not only during the summer season.

   With this in mind, MHV has a host of February activities planned to engage people’s various interests. The month of February is officially designated “I Love to Read Month,” so we will highlight that with our second annual Author Reading Event on Thursday, February 7, at 7:00 p.m. in our Auditorium.

   The following authors will read from their recent publications and be available to sign books purchased that evening: Waldemar Janzen – Reminiscences of My Father Wladimir Janzen; Werner Toews – Sketches From Siberia, The Life of Jacob D. Suderman; Glen Klassen – Hope, Healing and Community. The ensemble Accent will provide musical entertainment. This event will be relevant to book lovers and historians alike. Admission is free.

   On Friday, February 8, at 6:00 p.m., the local Peace Project Committee will host a fundraising banquet at MHV to raise money for an interpretive exhibit to supplement the recently installed monument of Dirk Willems. The evening will feature a choir from the Crystal Springs Hutterite Colony and a talk by Dora Maendel, a teacher at the Fairholme Hutterite Colony. She will tell the story of four young men sentenced to 20 years in Alcatraz for their refusal to enlist in the military in 1918. This event will have particular relevance for those who value our Anabaptist history and theology. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at MHV by calling 204-326-9661.

   On the following Friday, February 15, MHV will host a teen gala event with an Old Time Western County Fair theme. Activities will include an escape room; a photo booth; carnival games; face painting, henna and airbrushing; dancing and snacks. This event seeks to increase our relevance to high-school-age students. It begins at 7:00 p.m., and admission is $10.

   Then on Saturday, February 16, we will host the second annual MHV Winter Carnival. Beginning at 10:00 a.m., there will be skating, horse-drawn sleigh rides, a bonfire, indoor and outdoor games, and snacks will be available from a canteen. Regular MHV admission rates apply, which means that all current MHV members get in free.

   An additional activity is also available at MHV throughout February and the remainder of our winter months. The City of Steinbach has once again created a skating rink on our museum grounds. We are making it available to our community free of charge (except on Feb. 16 as noted above) during regular museum hours. We are open Tuesday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. A great family outing!

   MHV’s relevance to our community will continue to increase as we seek to serve various interest groups and demographics in creative ways. History may suddenly seem less stuffy to the sceptics out there.

Calendar of Events

February 7, Second Annual Author Reading Event – 7:00 PM

February 8, Peace Project Fundraising Event – 6:00 PM

February 15, Teen Gala – Western Night – 7:00 PM

February 16, MHV Winter Carnival – 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM

Village News

My Favourite Things

   Think of your favourite things. Excluding people or places, like your favourite café or park, think about the objects that fill the spaces in which you live and make a list of your top ten. What things came to mind? Why did you choose them? 

   I did this exercise myself recently, and it pushed me to consider again the importance of materiality in our lives. The stories connected to the objects on my top ten list recall the people I love and who love me. They prompted me to think of the things I know that are true and reminded me of what I’ve learned and where I’ve come from. The value in these things is not their monetary value or even, in many cases, any inherent beauty they may have. Their value for me is in these back stories, the things that provide a tangible connection to my own history.

   In my list of favourite things, for example, are my bicycles, one for summer and one for winter. They aren’t the fanciest bikes, and in fact my winter bike is old, not very attractive, and not worth much. My bikes made my list because of what they have come to represent for me. I started cycling during a season of chronic migraines and pain that, for me, has been part of dealing with post-concussion syndrome over the last number of years, and I started winter cycling in a year when this pain was at its worst. In this context, my winter bike has come to symbolize thankfulness, faith, strength, resilience, adventure, and the quieter, bass-note kind of joy that I started to learn about through a difficult circumstance. My summer bicycle, on the other hand, represents something much different and lighter: an uncontainable, childish joy from the fun of going as fast as I can and beating my time and the playfulness of getting soaked cycling through a mud puddle in spring.

   This materiality of life is something we all experience to some degree in our personal lives, but when I walked into work the day after I made my list, I thought about our museum’s collection in a new way too. This, in part, is why museums do what we do! Unfortunately, some artefacts have arrived here without a clear history. For example, the velocipede on display in the main gallery is certainly unique in our collection and fascinating in what it conveys about leisure activities or transportation in the early 1900s, but we know next to nothing about its specific history.

   For the most part, however, our museum’s artefact collection is comprised of objects that were treasured by the people who donated them, and by the donor’s ancestors in many cases.  They are objects that carried enough inherent significance that their owners thought it worthwhile to keep them. Over time, they became heirlooms by virtue of the meaning they contained and the symbolism bestowed on them by their owners.

   For example, one of the last additions to the artefact collection in 2018 was a beautiful piano constructed of burled walnut, built by Erich Brandes in Berlin (ca. 1899). This piano was purchased from the German consul in Winnipeg in the early 1930s by Henry (Heinrich) Dyck for his sister Elisabeth (Dyck) Peters, not long after their 1925 arrival in Canada.

   The siblings had lived through the horrors that attended life for many Mennonites in the Soviet Union after the Russian Revolution, including the murder of their father. He was a schoolteacher, killed by anarchists while trying to obtain food for his family. Once in Canada, Elisabeth worked as a domestic in Winnipeg from the age of fourteen, and her brother took on a number of “blue-collar” jobs. Both eventually worked at getting an education and became teachers, ultimately university professors. The donor reported that the gift from Henry (the donor’s uncle) to Elisabeth (the donor’s mother), made so soon after their arrival in Canada, was made at an enormous sacrifice.

   The physical materiality of this beautiful piano contains all of this history. And there is much more yet that we aren’t privy to, because the piano was later passed from Elisabeth to her daughter and then occupied a prized place in the donor’s home for many more years before the decision was made to donate it to Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV). When the piano arrived at our museum and was settled into its new home in our collections storage room, I snapped a photo of it and sent it to the donor.  Her response to my email has stayed with me. She thanked me for sending the photo and then shared that even though she was thankful the piano had a new home, it had still been a “wrench” for her to see it go.

   MHV’s collection contains over 16,000 artefacts. Consider all the stories that these objects represent and then all the histories of the people in whose lives they played a part. As a curator, I have the opportunity of handling these artefacts – from the very smallest stored in our collections storage room, to our very largest heritage buildings in the village - and hearing their stories. This is a privilege for me and something I don’t take lightly, but when I considered my favourite things and what they symbolized in my life, it struck me anew what it means when people donate their objects to MHV and entrust us with their histories, all for the good of the community.

   I now offer you this challenge: Think back to that list of your favourite things and consider the secret life of the objects around you. I dare you to try doing this without smiling, as you think over the richness that these everyday things bring to our lives and how they connect us to our past. Then come visit the galleries at our museum and contemplate all the histories embedded in plain sight throughout the exhibits and what it means to belong to a community of people who are willing to share their stories with one another in this generous way.

Calendar of Events

February 3, Vespers Service – 7:00 PM

February 7, Second Annual Author Reading Event – 7:00 PM

February 15, Teen Gala – Western Night – 7:00 PM

February 16, MHV Winter Carnival – 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM

Village News

Reaper, Binder and Spreader

   These three words have at least three things in common at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV). They are all old farm implements in our machinery collection. They all have a significant number of wooden parts. And because their wooden parts make them more vulnerable to weathering and decay than metal machines, they are all desperately in need of repair.

   In earliest times, the term “reaper” likely referred to a person. This individual would be using a scythe (a long knife with a long wooden handle) to cut grass or ripe grain to prepare it for threshing. Various mechanical devices were later invented to automate this process.

   Britannica.com informs us that the earliest mechanical reapers were invented and patented in the early 1800s. Some of these machines had a sickle, or “reciprocating,” cutter bar that cut the stalks of grain, a table that held the cut grain, and a series of paddles that rotated over the table and pushed the bunches of grain off the table. These bunches could then be manually tied into sheaves, which would be set up in small groups, or stooks, to dry. Once dry, the sheaves would be collected and threshed in a thresher or separator.

   Today, the most commonly used mechanical reapers are swathers and combines. The type of reaper that preceded today’s swather was a binder, which we still use in one of our pioneer demonstrations. This machine cuts the grain and bundles and ties it into sheaves to facilitate handling.

   Various models of binders were used to cut and bundle either cereal grains or corn. The corn binder, similar to the grain binder mentioned above, cut corn stalks and tied bunches of stalks into bundles for easier handling. These bundles of corn were then typically taken to a stationary silo filler to be cut into silage.

   The manure spreader was an early model organic fertilizer spreader. Composted manure was loaded into the spreader and broadcast on the fields, pulled by either horses or a tractor.

   These are all interesting machines, and videos of each one in operation can be found on YouTube. MHV’s machinery collection includes at least one reaper, one corn binder, and one manure spreader. As noted above, the many wood components on these old machines are decaying and need to be replaced, hopefully with a view to using these functioning artefacts for our pioneer farming demonstrations.

   Here’s where we offer a great opportunity to anyone who enjoys working with wood as a hobby. We have a heated shop with a variety of woodworking tools. This would be a great place for interested volunteers to gather one or more days a week to work on restoration projects such as this one. In winter, our staff enjoy having volunteers join them in the Village Centre for free coffee. In summer, when the Livery Barn Restaurant is in operation, meals are available to volunteers at half price. Give us a call at 204-326-9661 if this interests you, and we’ll provide more information about project options.

Calendar of Events

February 3, Vespers Service – 7:00 PM

February 7, Second annual Author Reading Event – 7:00 PM

February 15, Teen Gala – Western Night – 7:00 PM

February 16, MHV Winter Carnival – 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM

Village News

New Shoes or Polished Shoes?

   Many years ago, the chairperson of my church’s finance committee told our gathered membership that he had not purchased new shoes for his presentation of the proposed new budget, but he had at least polished them. No doubt this comment was to reflect the austerity which had shaped that budget.

   It would seem to me that the finance committee chairpersons of most charitable organizations would tend to “polish” their shoes rather than “purchase” new ones for similar reasons. And I suspect this will be the case at the next Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) Annual General Meeting (AGM).

   Our 2018 books have now been closed, statements have been printed, and budgeting worksheets have been distributed to department heads. It probably goes without saying that budgeting is nobody’s favourite activity. But it needs to be done.

   There may be several reasons why people generally don’t enjoy writing a budget. There is a lot of uncertainty involved in this exercise. A former colleague in one of my previous careers used to tell us, “We know the budgets will be wrong; we just need to figure out where they will be wrong.” So we do our best to project what will happen and then incorporate as much flexibility into the action plans as we can. (Is this starting to sound more like art than science?)

   One of the factors we need to project is changes in revenue. Can we expect more guests to visit the museum this year than last year, thereby increasing our admission revenue? And if so, why? How will the number of guests affect sales in Village Books and Gifts and in the Livery Barn Restaurant? How will local traffic impact sales in those two venues? Will the number of people using our Summer Pavilion, our Auditorium, or one of the other meeting rooms increase compared to last year? And again, why? What grants can we expect to receive for various programs and projects? Will donations and fundraising revenue increase or decrease?

   While we consider these questions, we also need to figure out how we will need to manage our areas of responsibility in order to bring about increases in revenue. What exhibits and programs will attract local, regional, national and international guests? What products and services will make our gift shop and restaurant popular destinations? What services will make our rental facilities attractive to local businesses, family groups and wedding parties? What fundraising events will the public find engaging and compelling?

   And it doesn’t get any easier. We also need to determine the optimum prices to set in our gift shop and restaurant, for museum admission, for our facility rental business, and for fundraising events. In other words, what value will people place on our products and services in order to feel that they are being treated fairly and enjoy doing business with and supporting our museum?

   Salaries of our paid staff make up a significant part of our expenditures. Our staff need to be treated fairly, which is addressed in part by paying wages that are at least similar to what they could earn in the for-profit world. At the same time, we need to be fair to the many MHV supporters who make donations to our work and therefore be frugal with all our operating costs. And at the end of this budgeting exercise, our final budget must of course be a balanced budget.

   For the next several weeks, department heads will be processing all these questions and trying to come up with the best combination of revenue and expense projections for this new year, shaped by last year’s performance as well as our 2019 strategic plan. We will be guided by our knowledge of the broader museum industry, by our understanding of our supporting constituency, and by our good will towards our community. Plan to attend our AGM in April to see how we did!

Calendar of Events

February 3, Vespers Service – 7:00 PM

February 7, Second annual Author Reading Event – 7:00 PM

February 15, Teen Gala – Western Night – 7:00 PM

February 16, MHV Winter Carnival – 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM

Village News

vn 1 11 19 

Photo Caption: Curator Andrea Dyck cleaning the small case that holds some of the Bibles in our collection.

 

The Joy of Cleaning

   About once a year, the curatorial department at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) devotes a week or two to one of our favourite parts of our job: cleaning. No, I’m not kidding. There is nothing more satisfying than tidying, scrubbing, and washing all those things we had meant to address throughout the year but didn’t have the time for. And doing it in the weeks before Christmas break means that when we get back to the office, our curatorial and exhibit areas are glowing spaces that will give us motivation and inspiration for our upcoming projects.

   Our 2018 project goal was to clean the entire permanent gallery. This was quite an undertaking! Neither Andrea nor I knew when the gallery had been last cleaned. It had certainly been quite a while, as there was a significant layer of dust on the wall panels. As we prepared for this task, we excitedly anticipated using the backpack vacuum cleaner we had purchased in 2017, thanks to funding from the Heritage Grants program.

   This project really gave us the opportunity to take it for a spin! Although vacuuming and cleaning the gallery may seem like a low-priority task, it is actually an important part of preventative conservation practices. (To read more about preventative conservation, see the “Village News” article from November 30, 2017, https://steinbachonline.com/community-blogs/mennonite-heritage-village/village-news-128.) Vacuuming dust out of cases and wiping walls and windows not only makes the gallery look more pleasing to visitors; it also helps prevent the deterioration of our artefacts. Keeping the artefacts themselves clean through regular vacuuming and dusting is especially important for their long-term preservation.

   Not only did this project give us visual satisfaction of a clean space; it also gave us the opportunity to get a closer look at some of the artefacts that are usually kept behind glass. One that particularly intrigued me was a medicine chest. This chest belonged to Aeltester Franz F. Enns, who practiced homeopathic medicine in the Terek settlement in Russia, and also later in Canada when the family fled from the newly formed Soviet Union in 1918. He brought this chest with him, which was filled with over 100 tiny glass jars of ingredients for his medicines. These include arsenic, cannabis, belladonna, sulfur, and chamomile, to name a few. Many labels on the jars are Russian, while others are from different herbal dispensaries throughout Manitoba and Alberta, indicating that he did continue practicing after migrating to Canada. We didn’t have very long to focus on the medicine chest, but I hope to do more research on the different herbs and remedies Enns used. Stay tuned for a future post!

   Our cleaning project also gave us a chance to evaluate the artefacts in the permanent gallery and assess the opportunity for some changes to reinvigorate the gallery in a manageable way. Periodically switching out some of the artefacts for other ones is important not only because it presents different artefacts to visitors. It also helps us to protect and conserve the artefacts we have on display. Because artefacts made of materials like fabric and paper are sensitive to light, we try to rotate our textiles and paper artefacts when possible. In the next month, we will be switching out some of our current artefacts to showcase other ones in our collection, as well as some of our new donations. So keep an eye out!

   Although our year-end cleaning project had seemed like it would be a massive task, we were actually able to clean the entire permanent gallery and the artefacts on display in under two weeks! Is it silly that I’m already looking forward to our 2019 project…?

Calendar of Events

January 10, Auxiliary Film Night – Seed to Seed – 7:00 PM

February 3, Vespers Service – 7:00 PM

February 7, Second annual Author Reading Event – 7:00 PM

February 15, Teen Gala – Western Night – 7:00 PM

February 16, MHV Winter Carnival – 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM

About the Author

Gary is responsible for the overall management of MHV. Guiding the staff, informing the board, and networking with officials, volunteers, corporate sponsors, individual donors and other guests. He has a business diploma and a MA in Global Studies from Providence Theological Seminary. With his family he did humanitarian work for 18 years in Asia, including being a CEO of a Compost Enterprise in China. He loves to discuss the Mennonite story and how it is relevant in our world. Learn more about the MHV.

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