Village News

Pennant

   On May 19, Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) opened the newly arrived traveling exhibit Nice Women Don't Want the Vote. Developed by the Manitoba Museum to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Manitoba women gaining the right to vote, this exhibit outlines the historical context of the Suffragist movement in Manitoba, identifies the women who had a direct influence in the movement, and acknowledges some of the movement's shortcomings.

   The exhibit title comes from a quote attributed to then-Manitoba Premier Sir Rodmand Roblin in a 1945 book by Nellie McClung: "'Now you forget all this nonsense about women voting,' [Roblin] went on in his suavest tones.'You're a fine, smart young woman, I can see that. And take it from me, nice women don't want the vote.'"

   Despite Premier Roblin's convictions, many women did want the vote. Calls for women's suffrage began as soon as Canada became a country, but women did not get the right to vote federally until 1918. Women in Quebec were only allowed to vote provincially starting in 1940.

   There were two prominent beliefs that underlaid women's belief in their right to vote, though most women did not fully subscribe to one or the other and operated under a mixture of the two. The first was known as equal rights feminism, the belief that women had the inherent right to participate in society as equals to men. The second was maternal feminism, based on the premise that women were perceived to be more inherently moral than men. As such, their participation in the political process would lead to improvements in the lives of women and their children, eliminate social problems, and bring progress to society. Many suffragists also fought for reforms to property laws, which denied women title to their deceased husbands' property, and for temperance, which called for the prohibition of alcohol.

   Although the movement was incredibly important to the lives of women, Nice Women Don't Want the Vote also touches upon some aspects that we find uncomfortable today. For example, enfranchisement (voting rights) was used as a means of assimilation. Women were only "worthy" of voting once they accepted the values of white, mainstream Anglo-Saxon Canadian society. For example, Mennonite men and women were denied the vote under Wartime Elections Act of 1917 due to their status as Conscientious Objectors. The suffragist movement also ignored the rights of Indigenous people. Until 1960, First Nations people, regardless of gender, were not allowed to vote unless they surrendered their status under the Indian Act.

   Ideas about what it means to be a woman have changed drastically in the last century, thanks to succeeding "waves" of feminism, but we still have a ways to go. This makes one think. What other unwritten rules or assumptions do we use to exclude people or groups from participating fully in today's society? What will people think about our culture in a hundred years? 

   After our visitors have gone through this exhibit, we invite each one to vote at our voting kiosk. The option is given to comment on three questions: "What is one issue facing Canadian women today that has yet to be resolved?"; "If you could say one thing to a suffragist from 100 years ago, what would it be?"; "I want to vote because..."

   Nice Women Don't Want the Vote may be viewed in the Gerhard Ens Gallery until June 19.

   "Have we not the brains to think? Hands to work? Hearts to feel? And lives to live? Do we not bear our part in citizenship? Do we not help build the Empire? Give us our due!" - Nellie McClung

Calendar of Events

June 4: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM – Heritage Classic Car Show

June 10: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM – 8th Annual Tractor Trek

June 11: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM – Southeast Implement Collectors’ Tractor Show

June 16-18: Waffle Booth at Summer in the City

June 18: 11:30 AM – 2:30 PM – Father’s Day lunch buffet

July 1: 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM - Steinbach’s Canada Day Celebrations

PHOTO: Pennant

CAPTION: Suffragist pennant, early 20th century. See this and more at Nice Women Don’t Want the Vote, at Mennonite Heritage Village’s Gerhard Ens Gallery until June 19th.

Village News

Open for Business

   Our new event centre, built to replace the big white tent and give us much-improved facilities for programing and community use, served as a very useful overflow facility for our restaurant’s Mother’s Day buffet. Our weekly Sunday Buffet in the Livery Barn Restaurant (LBR) is popular on most Sundays, but it is always most popular on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

   Perhaps the quaint setting in a “barn” or the relaxing walk from the parking lot to the restaurant is the attraction. But more likely it’s the great food and friendly service that keeps people coming back.

   This year just over 400 people chose the LBR as the place to treat “Mom” with a lunch she didn’t need to cook. The restaurant itself only has seating capacity for about 100 people, so additional space was needed. Since the weather was a little too cold and windy to eat at our outdoor picnic tables, our new building saved the day. We had set up just over 100 chairs in there on Saturday, assuming that 200 total seats would be enough as people came and left over a period of three hours. But the extraordinary turnout sent us scrambling to roll out a few more tables and unpack six more boxes of new chairs. In the end, we did find seating for everyone inside the two buildings.

   Features of our new building include glulam beams, a wood ceiling, six large glass overhead doors to allow in a lot of light, and a polished concrete floor. Visitor’s comments about both the venue and the food were positive. We are thankful to the Penn-Co people who worked extra hard to get the building ready in time for this event.

Chortitz Oak Trees

   There are two oak trees in our village that are direct descendants of the great Chortitz Oak Tree in Ukraine. One of them, the one you see when you walk out of the Village Centre onto the village street, produces acorns every year. The squirrels are very quick to pick them up for their winter food supply, but someone managed to beat the squirrels to the harvest some years ago.

   Those acorns were gathered and planted, and little oak trees began to grow in a little plot on the west side of the Peters barn. By now, some of these trees are six and seven feet tall, so we realized it was high time to move them to permanent locations.

   Our main village street is lined with trees, mostly Manitoba Maples. In some places, the trees have died and been removed, leaving open spots. This week we filled nine of those open spots with nine oak trees transplanted from the little plot. Thanks to Dan and Trish Friesen of Timber Trails Tree Farm for bringing their very efficient tree-moving machine to make this job so much easier. The transplanted trees are generation-three descendants of the great Chortitz Oak Tree. The stories of this historic tree will live on at MHV.

Calendar of Events

June 4: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM – Heritage Classic Car Show

June 10: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM – 8th Annual Tractor Trek

June 11: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM – Southeast Implement Collectors’ Tractor Show

Village News

Local History Lectures

   On Saturday, May 6, approximately 70 people gathered at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) to listen to three presentations on Family, Food and Spirituality. This was the second annual lecture event hosted by the Eastmenn Historical Committee of the Manitoba Mennonite Historical Society. This year MHV was a co-sponsor. It was a privilege and pleasure to join the committee in offering these lectures to the community.

   The first speaker was Dr. Val Hiebert, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Providence University College. Her topic was Changing Perspectives of Marriage & Family Throughout the History of the Church to the Present. The first part of her talk described the various models of family that have existed through time. She covered the eras of the Old Testament, New Testament, Early Church, Middle Ages, Protestant Reformation, Colonial Period, Nineteenth Century, Twentieth Century, and Twenty-First Century. It was interesting to observe how family dynamics and values changed from one era to another. The place of children and the role of women in the family saw particularly significant changes over time.

   In her discussion about the nineteenth-century family, Dr. Hiebert referred to research done by Winnipeg archivist Conrad Stoesz which explored unique Mennonite family values and practices of that era, some of which were rather startling.

   In light of all of the changes in family values throughout the centuries, Dr. Hiebert pointed out that “traditional family values” has meant different things in different eras. She encouraged us to consider the over-arching principles taught throughout scripture, particularly the two major reoccurring themes of love and justice.

   Daphne Thiessen, a self-proclaimed homemaker, provided wonderful reflections of her joy in planting, growing, harvesting, preparing and sharing food as spiritual exercises. She spoke of her satisfaction with the way that preparing and sharing food causes her to slow down. To Daphne, the preparation of food is much more an art than a science, ensuring that each effort has a unique outcome. The fact that all plants and animals must die before they become food reminds her of the sacrificial gift of salvation.

   Local historian and author, Ernest Braun, rounded out the evening with an interesting discussion on the Waisenamt. This was a mechanism of the early Mennonite communities, going back to the time when Prussia/Poland was home to Mennonites, that sought to ensure that widows and orphans would have the economic means to care for themselves when a spouse/parent died. Braun suggested that this Waisenamt was one the earliest forms of a Credit Union. It was particularly interesting to note that this organization accumulated enough money over time to fund a significant portion of the migration costs for Russian Mennonites coming to Canada in the late 1800s.

   Several of the sessions included a question-and-answer period following the lecture. The organizers intend to publish the content of these lectures sometime in the future to make them available to those who were not able to attend.

   We at MHV are grateful to the Eastmenn Historical Committee for the initiative taken to plan and host these events.

Calendar of Events

May 12: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM - Manitoba Day

May 14: 11:30 AM – 2:00 PM – Mother’s Day Buffet

June 4: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM – Heritage Classic Car Show

June 10: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM – 8th Annual Tractor Trek

June 11: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM – Southeast Implement Collectors Tractor Show

Village News

Family, Food and Spirituality

   Mom, Dad and three kids. Isn’t that what the family is, and what it has always been? Actually, my Mom and Dad had thirteen kids, but we still fit the pattern of an isolated family unit with definite boundaries. Val Hiebert, a professor at Providence University College, has studied the family from a historical, biblical, and sociological point of view. She will share her insights in a talk at the Mennonite Heritage Village this coming Saturday, May 6, at 7:30 p.m., taking a good look at this idea of the family throughout history from the point of view of the church.

   She says: “We often hear the appeal among Evangelical churches and organizations to return to traditional family values. A chronological journey through the social and theological history of the Church suggests that the Church, influenced by a combination of cultural norms and biblical interpretation, has held to a wide variety of views on what constitutes a biblical marriage and family throughout different historical eras. Social location in history deeply influences how the Biblical text has been and is being read and applied. What might this mean for us today?”

   The evening will also include two short talks on other subjects related to the family and spirituality. Ernie Braun, our local historian and stand-up comic, will talk about the Waisenamt. This was a Mennonite agency which looked after the financial affairs of orphans and single parents. Probably not a natural occasion for comedy, but wait for it.

   In the old days, when one parent died--usually the mother--the rule was that her children were entitled to receive half of the family estate upon reaching majority. That meant they would get half the estate at the time of the death of the mother, so usually this amount had to be kept in trust for the children and invested for their benefit in the meantime. So the Waisenamt had to take care of a lot of money. How did this play out? How did it affect spirituality? Come to Ernie’s talk and find out.

   The other short talk will be given by Daphne Thiessen, a homemaker living in a semi-rural community with husband Randall and two young sons. She is passionate about gardening and cooking and has taken the time to reflect on how this ties in with spirituality. Most of us take these things for granted, but a mindful meditation on food leads us to marvel at its daily blessing. Come for the feast.

   The idea of having annual lectures on historical topics was started last year when the EastMenn Historical Committee sponsored talks about the Métis and the indigenous people of southeastern Manitoba. Those talks have been published in last year’s issue of Preservings. This year the Mennonite Heritage Village has joined EastMenn in sponsoring the talks in their facility. Hope you can make it!

Calendar of Events

May 6: 7:30 PM - Local History Lectures – Family, Food and Spirituality

May 12: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM - Manitoba Day

May 14: 11:30 AM – 2:00 PM – Mother’s Day Buffet

June 4: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM – Heritage Classic Car Show

June 10: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM – 8th Annual Tractor Trek

June 11: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM – Southeast Implement Collectors Tractor Show

Village News

It's gearing up to be another busy spring at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV). Despite this week’s snow, we are just about ready for the May 1 opening of our village for another season. Besides getting our outdoor village ready, we are hard at work preparing one of this summer's gallery exhibits, Storied Places, which will open on July 1. Storied Places uses artefacts to explore the stories Mennonites tell about themselves and about what it means to call Manitoba “home.” Stories about “place” shape who we are as people, and this exhibit encourages our visitors to think about the stories that have shaped them.

   For the last couple of years, we have been working to involve local schools and institutions in designing and producing our exhibits. This year we welcomed the new Advanced Photography class from Landmark Collegiate to participate in our Storied Places theme. The Advanced Photography teacher, Todd Peters, explained that he was looking for opportunities to apply his students' learning outside of the classroom. We were all too happy to partner with them so that the students could exhibit their theme-inspired photographs beyond their school setting.

   Curator Andrea Dyck and I went to Landmark Collegiate in the fall and spoke about the concept behind Storied Places. We talked about how Mennonites made Manitoba "home" when they first migrated here in the 1870s, and we told some stories connected to our own favourite places. We then asked the Advanced Photography students to think about places that were special in their personal lives. This pondering inspired the photo essays they created to exhibit at MHV, which was their final assignment for the class.

   Teacher Todd Peters and I installed the exhibit over spring break, and Andrea and I were excited to see how well the students' assignments had turned out. Each student in the class had taken photos of places that were important to them, and then explained why by telling the stories behind them. For example, some students wrote about their childhood home, their grandparents' house, or their family's cottage. One student based his assignment on his dad's workshop. Another focused her assignment on the field outside her house; where we might see an empty space, she sees a place full of memories. The students appreciated the opportunity to create and display their own exhibit as well. One student says, "Not only did I get to explore themes in photography, in this case ”places,” but through this, my work can be displayed in a public place for others to see."

   We are also currently partnering with Paul Reimer's Advanced Photography class at SRSS to create their own photo essays to go with our Storied Places theme. Their exhibit doesn't go up until later this spring, but in the meantime you can still view their exhibit from last year, Beyond Tradition: The Lives of Women We Know, on the west side of our auditorium.

   Landmark Collegiate's Storied Places will be on display in the east-side cases of the MHV Auditorium through our summer season.

Calendar of Events

April 27: 7:00 PM – Volunteer Orientation

May 1: 9:00 AM – Outdoor village opens for the season

May 1: 11:00 AM – Livery Barn Restaurant opens for the season

May 6: 7:30 PM - Local History Lectures – Family, Food and Spirituality

May 12: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM - Manitoba Day

 

 VN 2017 04 27 Mikayla Ps assignment

 

 PHOTO: VN 2017-04-27 - Mikayla P's assignment.jpg

CAPTION: Mikayla's photo essay for Storied Places, on display in MHV's auditorium. She took photographs around her yard and explained why each place was important to her by telling the stories behind them.

Village News

Storied Places

  One of the heritage buildings I especially enjoy visiting at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) is the Barkfield School. It’s the public school located just west of the Windmill. The large windows, wooden desks and floors, large blackboard,and displayed textbooks all remind me of the Burwalde School between Winkler and Morden where I attended classes from grades one through eight.

  We normally had about 30 students in the school. I spent all those years in a grade with two other boys. In fact, during the years I attended the school the boys generally outnumbered the girls, which was fine with me because I grew up in a home with two sisters and no brothers, and most of my cousins who were close to my age were also girls.

  The Burwalde School was the place where I learned to read, write and do arithmetic. I learned about English grammar as well assome German grammar. I learned about health and geography, history and music. This was my foundation for much future learning.

  To get my schoolwork done, I needed to learn to focus on my assignment and not be distracted by the other activities in the classroom. This was not always easy because there were usually eight grades in the room, and the teacher was addressing at least one of these grades all the time. The room was rarely silent.

  I learned to enjoy stories and reading. In the back of the classroom there was a library. By today’s standards it was very small, but it had a variety of interesting books including at least one about the Boxcar Children. I may have read that one more than once. Our teacher would usually read to us after lunch, and because we had such a high percentage of boys in the class, we were often able to convince the teacher to read Hardy Boy books.

  On the school yard I learned a lot about sports. I learned to play softball, soccer, football and hockey. Most winters one of the local farmers would level a patch of snow on the school yard, haul truckloads of water with his three-ton truck, and flood a patch of ice. When it snowed he would bring his snow blower and clear the snow off the ice. On this makeshift rink we learned to play hockey at recess. Fortunately it was not highly competitive hockey, because most of us had no safety gear.

  Softball was our school’s competitive sport, where we would regularly play against five other country schools. Often on a Friday afternoon our teacher would borrow a farm truck from one of the farmers so that the entire student body could climb into the truck box and ride several miles to the next school for a ball game. This is where I learned about teamwork and sportsmanship and how to win and lose. I guess I didn’t learn these lessons particularly well, because I find I still don’t really enjoy losing.

  At Christmas time, our school would prepare a program for the broader community. This involved learning songs, poems and individual parts in short plays or dramas. This was my first introduction to choir participation and public speaking. I recall that on one occasion we even did a Low-German play.

  Beyond these numerous educational opportunities, I also learned how to make snow forts and tunnels, hunt gophers on the school yard, make whistles from Caragana seed pods, and play board games inside at recess on cold or rainy days.

  Not all the things we learned have beencritical to ensuring a successful and meaningful adult life, but in many ways the experiences of those eight years in the Burwalde School played a major role in shaping who I am today. Curiously, althoughI don’t remember ever being excited about going to school in those years, my memories of school experiences are largely positive.

  I now enjoy my visits to MHV’s Barkfield School because of the stories from my past which this school brings to mind. We at MHVare interested in hearing your own stories about places that are meaningful to you,particularly stories that are represented by an artifact or heritage building. What can you share with us?

Calendar of Events

April 27: 7:00 PM – Volunteer Orientation

May 1: 9:00 AM – Outdoor village opens for the season

May 1: 11:00 AM – Livery Barn Restaurant opens for the season

May 6: 7:30 PM - Local History Lectures – Family, Food and Spirituality

 

 

Village News

New Life at Easter

   Easter is a harbinger of new life. Maybe that’s why some of our celebrations include baby chicks and bunnies. When I was a child, my mother would plant oat seeds in an indoor container about a month before Easter in order to have new oats growing on that weekend. She would also follow the popular custom of boiling eggs for us to paint. All of these symbolize new life.

   We celebrate Easter in spring when the earth is coming back to life after the long, cold winter. I remember years where it was warm enough on the Easter weekend for my sisters to wear socks with their spring dresses, leaving the leotards in the drawer. It’s the time of year when we see birds building nests to hatch new life; flowers pushing up through last year’s dead foliage, preparing to present a wonderful floral display; and grass starting to grow on the south side of buildings where the sun has begun to warm the soil.

   Easter itself is a celebration of new life and new beginnings. The Christian community rejoices in the resurrection of Jesus and the resulting availability of new life for all who believe. That first Easter also marked a significant change in the worship practices of believers. Up to that time, the sacrifice of a living animal was required for one’s sins to be forgiven. Considering the large number of animals being brought to the priests for this ceremony, one can only imagine the sights, sounds and smells that prevailed in the temples of the day. Surely those buildings bear little resemblance to the churches in which we worship today. Jesus’ personal sacrifice fulfilled the forgiveness requirements once and for all.

   It was only after that first Easter that the opportunity for “new life” was extended beyond the Jewish people. Until that time, Jesus was viewed as the Messiah for the “Children of Israel” and not necessarily for the world. Through a series of vivid dreams, God led the Apostle Peter to understand that Jesus’ death and resurrection was on behalf of all people and all nations.

   Five hundred years ago Martin Luther initiated what is today known as the Reformation. One of the offshoots of the Reformation was the Anabaptist movement, which ultimately gave rise to the Mennonite church. This period of significant change resulted in new churches and new life, spiritually and practically.

   The Mennonite people have fled persecution and sought to retain lifestyle and values over most of the last five hundred years. In pursuit of the latter, each migration - from the Netherlands to Prussia to Russia to Canada to South and Central America - brought new life, along with significant change, to many Mennonite people.

   Those who chose not to migrate beyond North America also experienced changes and new life as they adapted to their local environments, learning to use the English language, establishing careers that required a significant education, involving themselves in government, and learning to sing with instrumental accompaniment in their churches.

   As we celebrate Easter this spring, let’s be reminded that Jesus’ resurrection and new life followed death. Similarly, the “new life” that Mennonites have experienced at various times in their history has often come at considerable cost. Although we should realistically expect some struggle with any major change in our lives, we can always anticipate and rejoice in new life.

Calendar of Events

April 27: 7:00 PM – Volunteer Orientation

May 1: 9:00 AM – Outdoor village opens for the season

May 1: 11:00 AM – Livery Barn Restaurant opens for the season

May 6: 7:30 PM - Local History Lectures – Family, Food and Spirituality

Village News (April 6, 2017)

Annual General Meeting

   Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) is incorporated in the province of Manitoba and owned by its members. To comply with provincial law and our bylaws, MHV conducts an Annual General Meeting (AGM) every year at this time. This year’s AGM was held on Tuesday, March 28.

   MHV members can contribute to our museum in several ways, such as volunteering for tasks that need to be done, donating toward our annual operations and specific projects, encouraging friends to attend museum events and to become museum members, and helping to make decisions about the museum’s future.

   Before we ask our members to make decisions at the AGM, we provide relevant background information. The report book which is distributed at the beginning of the meeting contains reports that address MHV activities and highlights of the past year and also begin to cast some light on plans for the coming year. Both written and oral reports are provided, and members are invited to address questions and comments to both. This year members heard oral reports from Willie Peters, President and Board Chair; Barry Dyck, Executive Director; Linda Schroeder, MHV Auxiliary President; Allan Kroeker, Finance and Audit Committee Chair; Victor Bergmann, auditor with Deloitte; and Carol Kroeker, Nominating Committee Chair. The report book contained written reports from each of these areas as well as the various functional departments at MHV.

   One of the highlights of the meeting was Victor Bergmann’s report that our museum had no bank debt at the end of 2016. It was very exciting to see that positive number after many years of seeing a negative number there. Our constituency has really stepped up to the plate and made a big difference. We do still have access to our line of credit for those times when operations and project expenses may require temporary cash-flow support.

   Lawrence Klippenstein, well-known and respected Mennonite historian, has served our museum as a director on the board for approximately 15 years. At our AGM last week, Lawrence was recognized for his contributions to the work of MHV. He also provided some insights about AGMs in general, about the MHV Board of Directors, and about story telling. History is so much about story telling.

   The members attending this meeting made several decisions on behalf of MHV. After reviewing the audited financial statements for 2016, they decided to accept the statements and the auditor’s report. Following that, they decided to accept the 2017 budget presented by Allan Kroeker and to appoint Deloitte as the auditor for the current calendar year. One of the most important decisions the members made was to elect Matt Wieler and Jeremy Peters as new board members - one to fill the vacancy created by Lawrence Klippenstein, and the other to replace Scott Reimer who resigned from the board after the previous AGM. Our board now has a full slate of members, with a healthy range of ages and professions represented.

   Membership in MHV is a real and interesting way to serve our community. There is more to be learned about membership by checking our website or by calling 204-326-9661.

Calendar of Events

April 6: 7:00 PM - Auxiliary Film Night - The Last Objectors

April 27: 7:00 PM – Volunteer Orientation

May 6: 7:30 PM - Local History Lectures – Family, Food and Spirituality

Village News

Why bother with history?

As we near May 1, the unofficial start date of 2017’s tourist season at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV), I’ve been asking myself why people should care about what MHV has to offer. As a curator, someone whose working life focuses entirely on history, this is an uncomfortable question. Of course people care about their history…right? But the reality is that many good and wonderful people don’t care about history, which leads me to ask an even more uncomfortable question: Why should people bother with history at all?

We are busy people who lead lives full of family, friends, work, Facebook, Netflix, cooking supper – the celebrations, the setbacks, and the grind of daily life. Where does history even have room to edge its way into our thoughts, much less our lives, in any meaningful way?

As a curator, I think the key to answering that question is in the word “meaningful.”  If we don’t care about history, perhaps it’s because we don’t see it as significant or relevant to our lives. Indeed, romanticized stories about the past, or supposed “lessons” that we are told we should learn from history, rarely are personally meaningful. But what if history wasn’t made up of stereotyped, two-dimensional characters but of people who led lives full of good and bad choices and decisions; who were bold and cowardly, victims and perpetrators; who sometimes rose above their circumstances and at others caved in to the crippling status-quo? In other words, would history be more meaningful if we acknowledged those who lived in the past as real and complex people?

I recently read a challenging article on the purpose of history written by Paul Kramer, a U. S. history professor at Vanderbilt University, entitled “History in a Time of Crisis.” He quotes Joan Wallach Scott, Professor Emerita at the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, who said that the purpose of history is “to open the possibility for thinking (and so acting) differently.” Taking this approach, the point of history is not to learn a lesson (and to dodge the trite threat that “history will repeat itself” if we don’t), but to continually grapple with our understanding of ourselves and each other, our lives, and our world. This struggle to understand and to think differently about the past can be uncomfortable and requires much more of us, I think, than simply memorizing the dates of historical events. This view of history, however, gives us the opportunity to come face-to-face with people who are different than us, who might have held beliefs that we don’t share, and who made decisions with which we may not necessarily agree. In these encounters with history there is the potential to understand more fully what it is to be human, to have empathy for others, and to see things from a different perspective. In a world that’s often divided between “us” and “them,” these are valuable skills to cultivate.

As a museum curator, I am continually challenged to find new ways to encourage people to think critically about both the past and the present. In particular, though, I get excited about my work when I think of the opportunities our exhibits, museum tours, and artefacts provide for connecting with people who don’t currently care about history and opening the possibility for them to think about the past in a new way. This challenge is a guiding principle in the creation of our 2017 exhibits. Two of them, on the theme Storied Places, will see MHV partnering with the arts community through the Steinbach Arts Council and with high-school students at Steinbach Regional Secondary School and Landmark Collegiate. I hope you’ll join us and accept our challenge to think again about history.

Calendar of Events:

April 2: 7:00 PM – Vespers Service

April 6: 7:00 PM - Auxiliary Film Night - The Last Objectors

April 27: 7:00 PM – Volunteer Orientation

May 6: 7:30 PM - Local History Lectures – Family, Food and Spirituality

 

Village News

The Last Objectors

   Usually once a year the Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) Auxiliary stages a Film Night as a fundraising event for our museum. These films typically cover a particular aspect of Russian Mennonite history. The next such event will take place on Thursday, April 6, at 7:00 p.m. in the MHV Auditorium.

   The Last Objectors is a 45-minute documentary film written and produced by Andrew Wall, with input by Conrad Stoesz and Korey Dyck from the Mennonite Heritage Centre. This venture was a collaboration between Refuge 31 Films, the CBC, MTS Stories from Home, and the Mennonite Heritage Archives, with financial support ($36,000 grant) from Heritage Canada through the World Wars Commemoration Fund. It has won numerous awards, including Best Feature Film Documentary at the 2017 Winnipeg Real to Reel Film Festival and Best Documentary at the 2016 Views of the World Music and Film Festival in Montreal.

   This film tells the story of more than 11,000 conscientious objectors who resisted engaging in armed combat during World War II and rather chose to perform alternative service for their country. Many of these men spent several years working in hospitals, asylums, forestry camps and various other service locations. They were required to donate much of their pay to the Red Cross.

   Angeline Schellenberg provides further information in an MB Herald article: “Since October 2015, Wall has interviewed more than 15 COs from Ontario to B.C. During WWII, these men did everything from working in mental hospitals to building roads. A few are Hutterite and United Church members; most are Mennonites. [. . .] Some interviews were highly personal: about how CO service affected them and their families. Other segments contained deep theological reflection.”

   In a column on the Mennonite Church Canada website, writer Deborah Froese quotes Korey Dyck, Director of MHC Archives and Gallery, as stating, “The Last Objectors  acknowledges these men’s experiences as both important and valid. [. . .] For some, this is their only chance to tell their story about serving Canada in a peaceful way during the Second World War.”

   As reported in an earlier column, eight Southern Manitoba COs attended the unveiling of a new cairn commemorating conscientious objectors here at MHV in November 2016. While none of them spoke publicly at that event, this film records segments of interviews with these men and reveals the sentiments behind their profoundly difficult decisions many years ago. Hearing the perspectives of these and other COs can lead to reflection on one’s own values. 

   Admission to view The Last Objector on April 6 is just $12. The evening will also include stories from the perspectives of women who had to manage at home in the absence of husbands, sons, and brothers; a music segment; and refreshments and conversation to close the event. Opportunity will also be given to make donations. Come for an evening of thought-provoking stories from a portion of our Mennonite history.

Calendar of Events:

March 28: 7:30 PM – Annual General Meeting

April 2: 7:00 PM – Vespers Service

April 6: 7:00 PM - Auxiliary Film Night, The Last Objectors

April 27: 7:00 PM – Volunteer Orientation

May 6: Mini Conference, Food, Family and Spirituality

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About the Author

Barry is the Executive Director of the Mennonite Heritage Village. While he does not consider himself to be a historian, he places a high value on the preservation and interpretation of the Mennonite and pioneer stories that help people of all ages understand and appreciate their heritage. Learn more about the MHV.

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