It's been a busy summer season in the Curatorial Department at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV). We opened the first of our two temporary exhibits, Beyond Tradition: The Lives of Mennonite Women, in early June, but then uninstalled it so we could open a traveling exhibit, Along the Road to Freedom, in early August. While we were choosing the artefacts, writing exhibit text, and making mounts, we were also busy taking part in all our regular summer events. We hung out at Summer in the City, inviting people to guess what the artefact we were displaying in our booth was called, and we also gave tours at MHV on our festival days.
I've had people ask me what we could possibly be working on after the Village closes on September 30. The Curatorial Department is certainly less visible to the public than some other areas of museum life, but we’re always busy working behind the scenes, regardless of the season.
First on our agenda now will be uninstalling and then reinstalling the two previously mentioned exhibits. Along the Road to Freedom closes after Thanksgiving (October 10), at which point we will uninstall it and ship it to its next destination, and then focus on reinstalling Beyond Tradition: The Lives of Mennonite Women in the gallery space. Beyond Tradition will open for this second showing in our Gerhard Ens Gallery on October 24 and run until spring 2017.
During the winter we have the opportunity to complete all of the tasks that we didn't have time for during the summer. I myself will be dealing with all the artefacts that we accepted over the summer and didn't have time to catalogue. This will help me complete another of my goals, which is to tidy our office and lab space. Maybe I'll even have the time to complete a few of the projects I started last winter!
Our major project for the winter will be planning next year's exhibit, which will celebrate the 150th anniversary of Canada's confederation. Although there weren't any Mennonites in Manitoba in 1867, we want to celebrate this occasion from a uniquely Mennonite perspective. Over the winter we will be doing research and refining our exhibit concept. Then, based on our research, we will tease out the major themes that we want to focus on, do more research, and choose which artefacts to display to support the story we're telling. We are always looking for opportunities to build relationships with schools and organizations in our community, so a major part of our theme for 2017 will be a specific focus on strengthening existing partnerships and building new ones, as we seek to extend MHV’s celebration of Canada’s 150th into the community. Stay tuned for more details on our exciting new theme and watch for some of the ways we’ll be partnering with local students and other organizations to share in this significant celebration!
While for many people December 1 signals the start of the Christmas season, for our Curatorial Department it also signals the height of the annual “Grant-Writing Season.” One of our projects over the summer has been to conduct a thorough Building Maintenance Inventory, which encompassed all our heritage buildings and replicas in the Village. This vital tool will help us identify the buildings most in need of maintenance and restoration work and will guide our grant-writing process over the next months. We rely on grants to perform expensive maintenance on our priceless heritage buildings in the Village, to help us prepare and present a new exhibit every year, and to complete other projects throughout the year. Without support from granting agencies, we simply wouldn’t be able to do the work we do at MHV. Our Curatorial Department is especially appreciative of the support we’ve received from a number of funders for projects that we have either finished this past summer or will continue working on for next year. These include the Canada 150: Community Infrastructure Program at the federal level and the Heritage Grants Program and Community Places at the provincial level.
After our grant applications have been submitted, it's only a short while until we re-open the Village and dive head-first into the Summer 2017 season with the implementing of our new theme, including the installation of our new exhibit. As you can see, our Curatorial Department isn't busy with the same things all year round, but there is rarely a dull moment, and even before the first snowflake flies we’re already planning for the long, hot summer days of next year.
Calendar of Events
- September 29: Auxiliary Fundraising Dinner – 6:00 PM
- September 30: Last day of operations for the Livery Barn Restaurant and the outdoor village.