Village News

VN 2017 11 30 Cleaning

   Although the outdoor village has closed for the season and activity at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) has quieted down, the winter season signals a busy time for our curatorial department.

   From early in the new year to late winter we will be giving our Gerhard Ens Gallery a much-needed facelift, repairing and repainting walls, fixing and updating our exhibit cases, and adding electrical capacity to the gallery. We are very grateful for the funding we have received for this project from the Heritage Grants Program of the Province of Manitoba and also from the MHV Auxiliary, without which a project like this would be impossible. After these renovations, we will also be developing and installing our 2018 exhibit, featuring Mennonite clocks, in the Gerhard Ens Gallery.

   Aside from these big projects, our focus during the winter is on maintaining our artefacts. This includes cataloguing donations received throughout the year, improving the way we store artefacts, and — perhaps our favourite part — cleaning!

   Cleaning artefacts and the spaces where they are stored or exhibited is a crucial part of preventative conservation, or in other words, ensuring our artefacts remain in great condition. Other aspects of preventative conservation are maintaining specific temperatures and humidity levels where we keep artefacts, checking bug traps to make sure artefacts are not exposed to dangerous pests, and storing artefacts properly in our storage room (e.g., storing paper documents in non-acidic folders to prevent deterioration).

   While it can be difficult to be enthusiastic about cleaning, one of the first things you’ll find out about any curators you know is that we are inordinately excited about organizing things. So, while cleaning might seem like just a dull task that needs to be done to properly maintain a museum collection, we have been looking forward to this project for months! Dusting artefacts with microfiber cloths is one common way of cleaning; however, at MHV we recently upped the ante in the way we clean! Thanks to funding we received from the Heritage Grants Program in 2017, the curatorial department was able to purchase its very own HEPA vacuum cleaner to be used specifically for cleaning our artefacts and exhibits. The vacuum uses special filters that prevent dust from leaving the canister, and it fits onto a person like a backpack for easier maneuvering and cleaning.

   Vacuuming is particularly useful in cleaning textile artefacts. Although brushing the dust off an item like a coat is an option, the vacuum is a more efficient and effective method. Despite these benefits, vacuuming items like blankets, dresses, and fur coats is a delicate process. To prevent the material from being directly sucked into the vacuum, or to keep embellishments from being pulled off the material, a small screen is put over the end of the hose so only dust and dirt particles are removed.

   To maintain and preserve artefacts, it is important to clean them when they go on exhibit or back into storage, and to regularly clean items that stay on exhibit for longer periods of time, like those displayed in our Permanent Gallery. We plan to do a thorough cleaning of our exhibits in the gallery this winter.

   Those of you who have come “behind the scenes” at the museum to see our curatorial lab and design spaces will know there is a lot going on in these two large rooms. This is where we accept and catalogue new artefacts and develop and create our exhibits.  Keeping this area clean and organized is also an important task, which unfortunately is difficult to make a priority within our usual work schedule. To ensure we stay on top of it, however, we have scheduled two separate weeks over the winter where our curatorial department will be closed to the public. We’ll be washing floors, dusting, and re-organizing to ensure we are making the best use of our behind-the-scenes spaces.

   This week is the first of these cleaning weeks! To allow us to focus exclusively on this work, our curatorial department will address any enquiries received this week from the public during the first week of December, when the department has re-opened to the public. So, while it may take us a bit of time to get back to your email or phone call, we thank you for your patience as we put our new artefact vacuum through its paces and get our curatorial spaces cleaned and organized.

Calendar of Events

December 3, 7:00 PM – Vespers Service

December 11, 7:00 PM – A Gardener’s Christmas (meeting of the Steinbach and Area Garden Club)

Image caption: Who you gonna call?  Dust-busters!  Curator Andrea Dyck tries out our new vacuum on an exhibit case.

Village News

This and That

   As we near the close of another year, some things at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) are in a process of change, while other aspects continue as usual.     

Staff Transition

   MHV’s Program Director, Anne Toews, recently served her last day in that role. She had decided it was time to retire from this career and spend more time with her family. Many members of the community became acquainted with Anne through her management of our volunteer program and festival events. We wish her well as she begins a well-deserved rest.

   As a result of this, we needed to review the role of Program Manager to be sure that it was aligned with MHV’s current needs before hiring a new person. The position was then posted, and the competition closed this week. Interviews will get underway shortly. The new person in this role will be responsible for our volunteer program, education program, and festival events.

New Events Venue

   In September we cut a ribbon to open MHV’s new Summer Pavilion, a building designed and built to accommodate a variety of museum and community activities. It was already put to good use this year by our summer education program, festival entertainment, weddings, staff picnics and other community events.

   Now at this time of year, many people are looking for wedding venues. Couples who have been inquiring about MHV’s facilities this year are frequently choosing our new Pavilion. We are delighted to now be able to offer this building as well as our Auditorium for these events.

Sponsorship Program

   We are grateful that our business community regularly steps up to the plate with financial support for MHV through our sponsorship program. This program offers a variety of opportunities for sponsorship, including our festivals, Tractor Trek, golf tournament, classic car show, and barrel train.

   Sponsorship opportunities for 2018 will be presented to businesses by way of a booklet that lists and describes all sponsorship options. This will allow each business proprietor to view the entire offering and then choose the options which suit their purposes best.

Village Books & Gifts

   As usual, our gift shop stocks an interesting selection of Christmas gift ideas, such as cookbooks, genealogies, novels, toys, puzzles, games, and even wooden clothes-dryers. It’s just the place to shop, especially if one has run out of ideas for gift giving. To make things convenient, our online gift store at is open for browsing and purchasing 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Check it out.

Christmas Break

   In keeping with the pattern of the past few years, our museum will again be closed for a two-week holiday the weeks of December 25 and January 1, opening for business again on January 8.

   We are currently developing plans for new activities and initiatives throughout 2018, so stay tuned and we’ll try to keep everyone informed.

Calendar of Events

December 3, 7:00 PM – Vespers Service

December 11, 7:00 PM – A Gardener’s Christmas (meeting of the Steinbach and Area Garden Club)

Village News

Balancing the Budget

   Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) is not the only organization trying to close the year with black ink on the bottom line. Many organizations end their fiscal year on December 31. This is also the time of year when individuals and businesses are assessing their profits for the almost-completed year and making decisions about sharing some of those profits with charities. We are again inviting our constituency to keep MHV in mind when making those year-end giving decisions.

   MHV has had a challenging year as we have faced ongoing cost increases. Labour rates continue to increase as the minimum-wage rate goes up. Insurance premiums and property taxes are on the rise. Costs for food in the Livery Barn Restaurant, office supplies, and fuel for our lawn mowers are also not static. We have had little or no control over most of these increases.

   However, we are always on the lookout for ways to cut costs. This year, for example, we initiated a project to replace a large number of incandescent lights with new and more energy-efficient LED lights. The Manitoba Government’s Community Places Program, Manitoba Hydro’s Power Smart Program, and a number of supporting individuals and businesses came together to provide the funding for this initiative. We fully expect this to reduce our energy and maintenance costs going forward, as the bulbs will last longer and we will not need to spend time and money replacing them.

   At this point, however, we still need over $200,000 of revenue before the end of this year to hit our 2017 income target. While our gift shop and our facility rental business will continue to generate income these remaining months, much of the needed revenue must still come through personal and corporate donations. These donations will support the work that we do in preserving and interpreting important and interesting artifacts and stories; building community with our festivals, education programs, and meeting facilities; and generating tourism which feeds the local economy of the Southeast.

   There are multiple ways to make a financial donation to MHV. Our office in the Village Centre is open from 9:00 to 5:00 Monday through Friday, and we are always happy to receive cash or cheques. Donations can also be made with a credit card, either in our office or on our website at There is a “Donate” button on every page of our website for ready access. For those who have investment shares that they would like to donate, it is significant to note that there are tax advantages to converting shares into charitable donations. This can readily be accomplished through an organization like Abundance Canada who can provide advice on tax benefits of various giving plans and also process donations.

   Regular monthly giving is also an option through the “Donate” button on our website. A regular pre-authorized debit (PAD) from a donor’s bank account to ours can be arranged. This provides MHV with regular and reliable income and offers the donor a hassle-free method of providing support.

   Our constituency has supported our Foundations for a Strong Future campaign in a big way, for which we are very grateful. This campaign is providing significant support to the longer-term capital initiatives which are essential for MHV to thrive in the coming years. We are just $850,000 short of our $3 million goal and hope to reach that by the end of 2018.

  So as 2017 is soon coming to a close, we are inviting our constituency to once again consider how best to support MHV. We need regular annual operating funds to pay the bills and keep our doors open. But we also need capital-project funds to ensure future organizational health. We appreciate every donation that comes our way, regardless of its size.

Calendar of Events

November 17th 9:00 AM – 9:00 PM, 18th 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM – Christmas in the Village

December 3, 7:00 PM – Vespers Service

Village News

The Woolwich School

   The Barkfield School here at the Mennonite Heritage Village museum is a sample of the kind of one-room school that dotted the Rural Municipality (RM) of Hanover in the first half of the twentieth century. One teacher (often young, female, and single), eight grades, a huge blackboard around two walls, a picture of the King and Queen up front, and oiled plank floors.

   What were children learning in their one-room schools in the 1930s? If you are tempted to think that what the teacher and pupils covered was a primitive curriculum, think again. Ernie Braun from Tourond, has found detailed notes of courses taught at the Woolwich School by thirty-something Agnes Willms in 1929-34. Woolwich (pronounced “Wool-wich” by the Mennonites) was located at the extreme western edge of the RM of Hanover. It was during the Great Depression, and she was paid all of $450 for the year. She stayed at Woolwich for five years, which was unusual for a single woman. Often the lady teacher was whisked off to the altar by the most eligible young man of the district, not to return to the classroom.

   Agnes kept careful notes of her teaching topics in a spreadsheet, likely because she was required to show it to the school inspector at his next visit. That inspector was probably Archibald Adam Herriot. In his book, Schools, Our Heritage, John K. Schellenberg says that “the pupils were scared of him suddenly coming unannounced; the teachers loved him, especially the ladies!”

   The topics of instructions were math, language, grammar, reading, literature, spelling, geography, history, music, drawing, nature study, agriculture, physiology, and science. Whew. Agnes never recorded anything for agriculture, probably because the pupils had already had enough of that. But everything else was fair game and got some of her attention.

   To get a feeling for the curriculum, let’s look at the Grade VII literature and reading material. In November these 13-year olds were expected to read Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing, and A Winter’s Tale. In December it was As You Like It. The next year it was 12th Night, Timon of Athens, Romeo & Juliet, Hamlet, and Othello! Seriously.

   Miss Willms seems to have been especially fond of choral music. For this, all the pupils participated together as a wonderful little choir, singing everything from simple children’s songs to Christmas carols, folk songs, and oratorio selections. They even sang the difficult old carol Past Three O’Clock (lyrics at There was also a lot of music theory, including opera. One wonders what that meant for kids in the backwoods during the Depression.

   Perhaps an example of the impact this teacher had on her students was revealed in 1981 when a group of alumni hosted a reunion of all former Woolwich students at the Grunthal park. With Agnes in the audience, a 63-year-old former Grade VII student sang several stanzas of a song that Miss Willms had taught the class in 1932.

   In those days the teacher offered a glimpse of what was called “culture.” Miss Willms was an immigrant to Canada, having been born in Russia. She was apparently comfortable with European culture and had absorbed that of British Canada. There is no hint of German or French language instruction in her notes. I’m sure Inspector Harriot was very pleased with Miss Willms’ work, and the children will have had their minds and spirits enlarged.

Calendar of Events

November 9, 7:00 PM – Celebrating 150 Years of Immigration

November 17 & 18, 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM – Christmas in the Village

December 3, 7:00 PM – Vespers Service

Village News

IMG 09241

Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) is blessed with a number of wonderful partnerships with community organizations. One of those is with the Steinbach and Area Garden Club.

   Years ago the Garden Club and museum staff agreed that gardening services would be exchanged for meeting-room space. The Garden Club offered to look after flower beds, shrubs and the vegetable garden at MHV if they could use a meeting room at the museum for their monthly meetings. This has worked out to mutual benefit. Our Auditorium in the Village Centre is large enough to accommodate their well-attended monthly meetings. Part of the mandate of the club is to do community service, so the care of the gardens and flower beds at MHV is one of their main projects.

   Elsie Kaethler is a co-chair of the Steinbach and Area Garden Club. She recently provided me with some information about this season’s contributions to MHV by club members:

   The total work time contributed to MHV was 1,016 hours. If we had needed to hire professional gardeners at $30 per hour, that amount of time would have cost MHV just over $30,000. So this was quite a significant contribution.

   Some of the tasks that required the most time included spring cleanup, preparing flower beds and pruning – 68 hours; watering, weeding and deadheading – 328 hours; daily removal of Lily Beetles – 85 hours; Vegetable-garden care – 139 hours; fall cleanup – 58 hours; planning, mulching, leveling and planting 33 shrubs on the west side of the auditorium - 51 hours. The compiled list included many other tasks as well.

   In our conversation, Elsie informed me of the following extra efforts put in by individuals:

- “One volunteer saw that we could lose our beautiful heritage lilies to the ravages of Lily Beetles. She took it upon herself to create a "Lily Beetle Task Force" of fellow Garden Club volunteers that took turns coming out each day to hand pick and destroy the Lily Beetles before they could damage our lilies.

- “One volunteer noticed that the front of the rock monument beside the church was getting covered in lichen and dirt. He took it upon himself to bring a brush, bucket and soap and then scrubbed the monument clean.

- “One volunteer saw that the water-hose cart at the front of the Village Centre had one flat tire and another tire that was low on air. Because the flat tire was beyond repair, he purchased a new tire and a patch for the tire that was low on air. When I asked him to submit a bill for reimbursement, he refused to do so, saying ‘I can afford to do this for the Museum’

- “On a number of occasions I observed our volunteers picking up pieces of garbage on the grounds as they walked across the yard to get to the bed they were supposed to be working on, thereby setting a wonderful example of being good stewards of our environment.”

   It’s not hard to see what a great partnership this is for both organizations. MHV also has mutually beneficial relationships with other local organizations and is open to more. One of the purposes of MHV is to help make this community a great place to live. Collaboration is a wonderful way to make that happen.

Calendar of Events

November 5, 7:00 PM - Vespers Service

November 9, 7:00 PM – Celebrating 150 Years of Immigration

November 17 & 18, 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM – Christmas in the Village

Village News

Reviewing the MHV Experience

   Within the last ten to fifteen years, the internet has created a revolutionary public service: Online reviews. Individuals are encouraged to evaluate a product, service, or venue which they have personally experienced and then share their evaluation for the benefit of other potential consumers. Today, people are craving authentic, unbiased and non-commercialized input from their peers.

   For this article, I will specifically address venue reviews. Visitors to any venue want to find the best experience possible, and they want to visit “cool” places or experience “cool” things. Visitors want to know what to expect and how to enhance their experience, based on the information others have reported after attending. Comments sometimes include things the reviewer wished they had done when they were experiencing the venue, or how their experience could have been better while they were there.

   Some established organizations see online reviews as an extremely scary situation, due to their inability to influence the content of what people are saying about their venue online. The fear of being vulnerable, by allowing people to judge you openly, isn’t a comfortable feeling to most of us.

   But fear not; the formula is simple. If you are truly an attractive organization, people will leave commentary stating that, and you will continue attracting people. If you are not attractive, people will be very quick to critically state your shortfalls. So organizations are left with a choice: Become vulnerable to constructive criticism and use it to enhance and grow your organization, or reject it and press the mute button and bury your head in the sand.

   I’m pleased to see our Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) staff embracing reviews, allowing our visitors to speak about MHV from their personal perspective and to share their experience with others. You can find these reviews online, primarily in these mainstream media: TripAdvisor, Facebook, and Google Reviews. Here are a few samples:

TripAdvisor: (101 Reviews) MHV scores 4.5 out of 5.

MHV is ranked the #1 “thing to do” in Steinbach & regionally. Not surprising. But when the review scope is expanded to see Manitoba’s top “things to do” provincially, it is startling to see that MHV is ranked #22, ahead of the Bell MTS Centre (#27) and Manitoba Children’s Museum (#32). (Personally I would have expected to see the Winnipeg Jets experience ranked higher.)

Reviewer - Amanda R (July 2017) rates MHV 5 out of 5.

Winnipeg, Canada

Great day trip for families. We were very impressed with how the village was organized and thought it was very well kept. People are very friendly and helpful. Great day trip with our toddler who loved running around and exploring.

Facebook: (138 Reviews) MHV scores 4.5 out of 5.

Irene Stadke (July 2017) rated MHV 5 out of 5.

We are glad we decided to stop by here on our way out of Canada. Great village, museum and restaurant. Interesting history to learn about. I highly recommend this place.

Google Reviews: (76 Reviews) MHV scores 4.4 out of 5.

Scott (Oct 2017) rated MHV 5 out of 5.

“I have always wanted to live history ever since I was a kid. I had gone here on a whim in the summer of 2017 and it was just like I remember it as a kid! I loved it so much I offered to volunteer. They put me in the printing press and I spent the day operating a 100 year old cast iron printer.
“The best part about the village is that they actually use and maintain the machines for demonstration! Much better than seeing them in a building behind glass.”

   I encourage you to go online and read for yourself what people have been saying about MHV, and maybe even leave your own review while you’re reading others’. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the outside perspective of a brand-new visitor experiencing us for the first time.

Calendar of Events

November 5, 7:00 PM - Vespers Service

November 9, 7:00 PM – Celebrating 150 Years of Immigration

November 17 & 18, 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM – Christmas in the Village

Village News

VN 2017 10 19

Q & A with Jenna Klassen

   Jenna Klassen joined our team here at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) in early October as our new Assistant Curator. Some of our volunteers and members of the public have had a chance to meet Jenna, but for those who have not, I thought I would sit down with her for a “Question and Answer” session about museum life and her first few weeks here at MHV.

What drew you to MHV?

   The beginning of my experience with MHV began when I was a kid. I visited many times on school field trips, as well as during Pioneer Days when my grandpa gave wagon rides with his horses in the village. I was always fascinated by the heritage buildings in the village, imagining how they had once been used and lived in by their owners so many years ago. My interest in history and museum work has been ongoing for many years, and I have been working in the museum field for about three years, mostly in smaller, community museums. Working as the Assistant Curator at MHV gives me the opportunity to explore my interest in Mennonite and immigration history, as well as further my skills and experience within the museum field and in the role of curating.

What has been the highlight of your first two weeks at MHV?  

   One highlight has been touring the heritage buildings in the village in more detail than in past visits to the museum when I was only a visitor. As part of familiarizing myself with various aspects of the Assistant Curator position, I have done some in-depth reading of the history of the various buildings, including the architectural and structural features of each that made them functional (practically and culturally) for the early Mennonite settlers. Part of this in-depth exploration of the buildings is familiarizing myself with the conservation and restoration projects that have been undertaken, or still need to be undertaken. For example, the Waldheim house recently underwent extensive restorations that were completed this last summer.  The Waldheim house demonstrates the importance of these restoration projects in order to preserve these heritage buildings, so they can continue to be part of our Mennonite village. A building that requires extensive restoration is the Peters’ Barn, which is attached to the Waldheim House. Although it looks to be in pretty good shape from the outside, there is much to be done on the inside for it to be accessible and open to museum visitors. As a curator, projects such as these are challenging but the final product is even more satisfying. I am looking forward to contributing to larger projects such as these during my time at MHV!

What projects are you working on at MHV at the moment?

   Since the outdoor village has closed for the season, the village buildings need to be prepared for the winter. This week I have been going around to each building in the village to take out the linens (bedding, curtains, tablecloths, etc.), remove the old straw from the mattresses in the village houses, take out the wall clock from the Chortitz house, and other items that need to come indoors for the winter. This is a part of preserving the objects that are on display when the village is open during the spring and summer months. It also gives us the opportunity to have everything neat and clean for when we open next spring. The linens will be washed, new curtains sewn and hung, and mattresses stuffed with fresh straw. It also allows me to work outside on a beautiful fall afternoon!

You’re undertaking some unique research with part of the MHV collection right now. Can you tell me a bit about that project?

   I am currently working at MHV in two different roles. In addition to working part-time as Assistant Curator, I am still also a student, undertaking research for my Master’s thesis, using the MHV’s artefact collection as my primary source.  Specifically, I am looking at immigration through material culture, using the artifacts brought to Canada by the “Russländer,” the Mennonites who left Ukraine (or, southern Russia, as they remembered it) in the 1920s. I am analyzing around five hundred objects that range from children’s toys to clothing to photographs to teacups. Using these objects, I am exploring what they meant to the people who brought them all the way to Canada, kept them within the family for generations, and then finally donated them to the museum collection.

And finally, the question every curator gets asked: What is an interesting artifact that you have worked with so far?

   Since I am still pretty new at MHV in my role as Assistant Curator, I have actually had more interaction with the collection through my role as a researcher. Currently, I am photographing the artefacts that I will be using for my thesis project. One of the interesting artefacts I’ve come across is a porcelain teacup that had once been broken in many pieces, but was stapled back together with thick, brass staples. This piece is interesting to me for my thesis because it suggests that the teacup meant a lot to the person it belonged to, so much in fact that they put it back together, and then packed it with their other belongings to bring to their new home in Canada. Items like this can demonstrate how objects hold meaning to the people they belong to.

   Thanks, Jenna. Although our outdoor village is now closed, our indoor galleries are still open. If you have not yet had an opportunity to take in our 2017 exhibit, Storied Places, we invite you to come and explore the stories that have shaped the Mennonite connection to place in Manitoba. While you’re here, please take a moment to share one of your own stories at our “Storied Map of Steinbach” station in the gallery.

Calendar of Events

November 5, 7:00 PM - Vespers Service

November 9, 7:00 PM – Celebrating 150 Years of Immigration

November 17&18, 9:00 AM–7:00 PM – Christmas in the Village

Photo caption: Jenna Klassen, the new Assistant Curator at the MHV.

Village News (October 10, 2017)

Village Books and Gifts

“A light wind swept over the corn, and all of nature laughed in the sunshine.” - Anne Bronte

Our Outdoor Village at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) is in the process of being tucked in for a long winter’s nap. The robins have packed their bags and are on their way to their next destination. The MHV pond is full of gaggling geese, who are busy planning their southern migration.

The 2017 season is marked by a myriad of memorable experiences that I will not soon forget. Once again we are well on our way to hosting over 40,000 guests from all over the world. Canadian travelers commented that they chose a “stay-cation” in celebration of Canada’s 150th. Festival days were filled with a wide variety of old fashioned demonstrations, hearty music, and children’s features. Visitors were elated to have the opportunity to purchase old fashioned candy and locally handmade items in the General Store located in the outdoor village.

I have personally had several conversations with guests who emphasized how impressed they were with our excellent customer service, our inclusive, family-friendly atmosphere, the impeccable condition of the village, delicious Mennonite cuisine found in our Livery Barn Restaurant, and Canada’s only functioning windmill.

Mennonite Heritage Village is one of Travel Manitoba’s top ten “Must-see-ums”. So many of our guests mentioned that the museum was on the top of their list to visit this year. Last week I chatted with a visitor from Texas who commented “We are glad we stopped in to see the museum. Friends had recommended that MHV is a must-see on our trip to Canada. We are very impressed with all the Village has to offer”.

Our Tourist Info-center continues to be a highlight filled with local information for those who are travelling across the Southeast and beyond. Our knowledgeable Reception staff daily engaged in great conversations about visitors’ family history and why they came to tour the museum. Staff take the time to listen, inform visitors of the Russian Mennonite immigration as well as help the traveler on to their next destination. Customers who make purchases in Village Books and Gifts express how impressed they are with the great selection of unique books and souvenirs found in this gift shop.

Village Books and Gifts is excited to carry titles that embrace our history, tell our story and sometimes tend to challenge our inner metal. We carry a great selection of local authors and children’s books as well as a large selection of family history books and immigration timelines.

With Christmas just around the corner, folks will drop by regularly to get that hard to find book and unique gift. We have a vast array of history books, novels, cookbooks, cards, waffle irons, old fashioned toys, wooden clothing racks and crokinole boards, dolls, games, puzzles, locally handmade jewelry and MHV Auxiliary retro aprons. Menno Apparel continues to be one of our most popular items, a feast for the eyes that tickles your funny bone. We are a store with so much more, it’s an experience. Thank you for considering the items in Village Books and Gifts. With your help MHV can continue to present the Russian Mennonite story and serve the local community with festivals, education, meeting places, and tourism.

There are many ways to support the work being done at Mennonite Heritage Village. MHV is a not-for-profit organization, so your purchase in Village Books and Gifts continues to help support MHV’s service to the community.

Calendar of Events

October 1 and following: MHV galleries, gift shop, meeting rooms, and offices are open Monday through Friday

October 13 & 14: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM – Threads of Time Quilt Show

November 5: 7:00 PM – Vespers Service

November 17&18: Christmas in the Village

Village News (October 5, 2017)

A “Storied Map of Steinbach”

To mark Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation, the theme at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) for 2017 is “Storied Places.” Our exhibit on this theme explores the reciprocal relationship between people and their ‘place.’ We look specifically at Mennonites in Manitoba and ask: what is the meaning that people give to place, and equally, that place gives to us as people? We do this by focusing on four topics, “Space,” “Place,” “Neglect,” and “Memory,” each of which follow the progression of the relationship Mennonites developed with their place in Manitoba from 1874 to the present.

MHV’s mission is to preserve and interpret the history of Russian-descendant Mennonites in Manitoba. While we stay true to our mission by focusing on the history of this specific ethno-religious group, we are also very mindful of being relevant to our increasingly diverse constituency. Our exhibit, therefore, focuses on Mennonite history but very consciously uses it as a jumping-off point for a broader discussion in our community about what our relationship to our local place really is. This exhibit is certainly about people coming away with a better understanding of the history of Mennonites in Manitoba, but our main goal was to engage people in how they think and feel about their own lives; to invite them to reflect on the points at which this history of Mennonites in Manitoba can intersect with their own lives, whether they are Mennonite or not.

To this end, each portion of the exhibit uses a key question to engage visitors, not only to learn about Mennonite history, but also to encourage them to think afresh about their own lives. In the portion of the exhibit entitled “Space,” for example, we ask: “How do you feel the first time you visit a new place?” In “Place,” we question: “What makes you feel at home in a new place?” The topic “Neglect” invites visitors to reflect on what places used to be important to them, but aren’t anymore.

The exhibit ends with the topic “Memory,” in which we look at the ways in which the Mennonite community in Manitoba has sought to remember its past in the latter half of the twentieth century. We recognize that in studying history it is important to know some of the key dates and decisions that were made, but a larger portion of history is studying how people lived, what they thought about their lives, and how they interpreted their world. So in this portion of the exhibit, we invite our guests to share some of their own stories, asking: “What stories can you tell about your home?”

This final question is the essence of the exhibit, as we’ve sought to understand how Mennonites viewed their place (and their past) and to encourage our guests to think about these same things in their own lives. As visitors exit the Gerhard Ens Gallery, we invite them to contribute to the exhibit by helping us build a “Storied Map of Steinbach.” While our constituency branches out far wider than just the city, our focus on local place in this exhibit also highlights the fact that we are members of the specific, local community in Steinbach as well. We ask our visitors to share their stories of specific places in Steinbach that have meaning for them. Visitors fill out a postcard, place it on a ledge in the exhibit, and then I “pin” those postcards to a map of Steinbach. The result is a map of the city filled with points of meaning and the stories behind why people feel this way.

While we often ask visitors to participate in our exhibits, this year’s response has been far and above the best in recent memory. People young and old, those who are new to Steinbach or who have called it home for generations, all have stories to share. Some of my favourites include:

  • “My home – I always described the street to friends as ‘the one with the churches on both ends.’”
  • “Jake Epp Library – where I first made ‘friends’ in book when I moved to Steinbach.”
  • “I got my ear medicine hear [sic]” (I choose to believe the pun was intended by this young visitor!)
  • “Before my wife and I were married, we parked on Keating Road to admire the stars! When it was time to go, my car wouldn’t start. We had to walk all the way to Sherwood Place, where her parents lived, to pick up their car to boost mine. A long and embarrassing ‘after midnight’ walk.”

To find out more about the “storied places” of Steinbach, as told by fellow Steinbachers, you’ll have to visit the “Storied Places” yourself and fill out a postcard of your own. For those who connect with us on Facebook, you can also submit a place and story of your own on our Facebook page ( as well.

Calendar of Events

October 1 and following: MHV galleries, gift shop, meeting rooms, and offices are open Monday through Friday

October 13 & 14: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM – Threads of Time Quilt Show

November 5: 7:00 PM – Vespers Service

Village News

The Future of our Museum

   A year ago, delegates to the annual conference of the Association of Manitoba Museums (AMM) viewed a new film directed by Andy Blicq of 4th Avenue Productions. The End of our Memories laments the loss of community museums and suggests that there will likely be further casualties. The film is well done and well worth watching, but it left many of us with a heavy heart and a sense of discouragement.

   At this year’s AMM conference, presenters again reminded us of the challenges museums face, including an abundance of damaging pests and a shortage of cash and volunteers. However, they also presented many creative ideas and opportunities. All good reasons for Manitoba’s museum operators to spend a couple of days together and share stories.

   The first presentation at last weekend’s conference was by Colin Ferguson, President and CEO of Travel Manitoba, focusing on various promotional opportunities they offer our industry. Recently they have created a list of “Must-See-Ums” on their website, which provides information about featured Manitoba museums. Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) is fortunate to be one of the museums highlighted on that list.

   Peter Cantelon, from the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre in Morden, and Joe Brown, from the Miami Museum located just 10 minutes north of Morden, talked about their recent partnership in preparing and promoting a new exhibit. As all good partnerships do, this one benefits both museums. We at MHV are also fortunate to be able to partner with various organizations, such as schools in the Hanover School Division and the Eden Foundation. No doubt additional partnerships will continue to be developed, increasing MHV’s relevance in our community.

   Rachel Erikson, Manager of Museum Programs at the Manitoba Museum, provided an overview of various programs they have used to engage different interest groups. Their Table Talk program invites a small group of people to hear a lecture on a specific subject and then discuss it over refreshments. Block-printing workshops at their museum provide a training opportunity for those interested in this craft. A yoga class held in the gallery which displays their dinosaur exhibit offered a unique yoga opportunity. These are just a few of the programs they have offered and found to be successful.

   Eric Napier Strong, Curator/Manager of Seven Oaks House Museum in Winnipeg, showed us how they are helping their museum become a meeting place in their community. MHV’s new Summer Pavilion is giving us a variety of new opportunities to provide a gathering place within our own community.

   It is evident that MHV and many other museums are struggling to find enough volunteers and dollars to continue our existing services to our communities. And these challenges are not likely to get any easier in the near future. Our task now is to become ever more creative in offering services and programs that will engage people of various demographic groups and continue to increase our relevance in our constituencies. We want to ensure a solid future for MHV in our community.

Calendar of Events

September 28: 7:00 PM – Volunteer Appreciation

September 29 & 30: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM – Manitoba Culture Days

September 30: Last day of restaurant and outdoor village operations

October 1, MHV galleries, gift shop, meeting rooms, and offices are open Monday through Friday

October 13 & 14: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM – Threads of Time Quilt Show

The views expressed in Community Blogs are those of the author, and are not necessarily shared by is Steinbach's only source for community news and information such as weather and classifieds.

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.