Village News

It’s March!

   I asked my colleagues at coffee break this morning if anyone had an idea for a Village News column. One of them astutely said, “Well, it’s March!” My first response was that I might need just a little more information to make this work. But I was left to my own creativity to develop the theme.

   There are some unique elements to life at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) in March. One of those is the return of Canada geese. Actually, this year they arrived in February already, but March is normally when we see increasing goose activity in the pond and on surrounding fields. This morning a news reporter came to photograph the geese on our pond, so it seems they have our attention.

   March is also the time of year when the snow in our yard begins to melt, although this year we saw some melting somewhat earlier. This means keeping our eye on our drainage ditches to ensure that the water can drain off our property without getting into any buildings. We also keep our eye on the Village Centre roof to ensure that leaks are attended to before anything is damaged inside the building. There is currently a bucket on my office floor, catching a very slow leak that is waiting for attention.

   Our Annual General Meeting (AGM) takes place at the end of March. This year it’s on Tuesday, March 28, at 7:30 p.m. in our Auditorium. Members and guests are all welcome to attend. In advance of this meeting, we are putting together a report book, preparing our 2017 budget, and working with our auditor to produce the audited 2016 financial statements. Our Nominating Committee has been at work for several months already and now has a slate of nominees ready for the election of directors to our board, which will take place at the AGM. And most importantly, we have also arranged to have a snack served after the meeting.

    Staffing needs are also being considered in anticipation of our summer season. Our outdoor village and the Livery Barn Restaurant will reopen for business on May 1. That’s also the time when our Education Program gains momentum and the grass on the yard begins growing. All this necessitates the hiring of summer staff for food services, facilities maintenance, and the Education Program. We need senior staff who can provide strong leadership, as well as support staff who are eager to learn as they work. Watch for job ads on our MHV website as well as local employment websites.

   The planning of MHV festival and fundraising events is well underway. We will again collaborate with the City of Steinbach to host a part of the July 1 Canada Day ceremonies and festivities. As usual, Pioneer Days will take place over the August long weekend, and Fall on the Farm will be held on Labour Day. We are currently planning our annual Tractor Trek fundraiser with Eden Foundation, as well as a vintage tractor show with the Southeast Implement Collectors and the sale of waffles at Summer in the City. There are also a few new initiatives on the planning table.

   This year, March also finds us busy with the planning, fundraising, and administration required for a variety of construction projects. Our new Summer Pavilion is nicely taking shape; the Waldheim House is scheduled to get a new thatched roof this summer; and the windmill will get another thorough checkup by a Dutch millwright and have a new deck installed.

   As the days get longer, we can almost feel the “busy season” approaching. We look forward to that time when we will again be actively serving our community and the tourists who will come to visit.

Calendar of Events:

March 28: 7:30 PM – Annual General Meeting

April 2: 7:00 PM – Vespers

April 27: 7:00 PM – Volunteer Orientation

Village News

Community Generosity

   News stories in the Steinbach media this week reported that in 2015 Southeastern Manitoba communities have once again demonstrated particular generosity by way of charitable giving. According to a Steinbachonline article, there are nine communities in the Southeast which recorded higher rates of tax filers claiming charitable donations than the provincial average. The same article reports that during the same time period there were ten communities in the Southeast whose median donation was higher than the provincial average. We’re in good company.

   While Mennonites are only one of the faith groups represented in this Statistics Canada information, we at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) know that community spirit has long been a part of Mennonite history. During a time when Mennonite faith, life and culture were still thriving in Russia, the Waisenamt (orphans office) was developed as a means to look after orphans, and later widows as well. This Waisenamt was funded and administered by the Mennonites as a trust fund for the needy. The Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online states: “The Waisenamt, however, established before the mutual credit bank, was most characteristic of the village community and its mutual aid practices. It was in fact a trust organization formed to assist minors who were orphaned, and to administer their inheritance funds. The money could be invested, saved, or distributed according to the best interests of the parties concerned. Evidence that the Waisenamt  satisfactorily served a need is the fact that it was still in existence in the 1950s in a number of Mennonite communities of Russian background, especially in Canada and Paraguay.”

   Mennonite Central Committee had its beginning in 1920 as a response to the extreme needs of Mennonites in the Russia. Esther Epp-Tiessen, in her book Mennonite Central Committee in Canada, records the following story: “On 17 August 1920, Mrs. John Schultz of Milverton, Ontario wrote to Levi Mumaw, secretary-treasurer of the newly-formed Mennonite Central Committee in Scottdale, Pennsylvania. She was responding to a call for contributions of clothing and money for Mennonites in need in what was now the Soviet Union. In her cryptic four-sentence letter, Mrs. Schultz wrote that no one in her community had clothes considered good enough to send overseas. However, she enclosed a donation of $34.08 which she designated “for Russia.”

   In our past and in our present, MHV has been a beneficiary of the community generosity in Southeastern Manitoba. While not all our support comes from this region, most of the approximately $250,000 in donations we receive annually comes from local donors. In the last 18 months, our constituency has also pledged and donated over $2,100,000 toward our Foundations for a Strong Future development initiative. We are blessed to be established in a community where generosity is part of our DNA.

Calendar of Events

March 5: 7:00 PM - Vespers Service

Village News

VN 2017 02 23 ProvisionalMetisGovernmentThe Provisional Government of 1869-70, with Louis Riel in the middle. Photograph courtesy of Library and Archives Canada, via Wikipedia.

   This week we have celebrated the life and death of one of Manitoba's most famous historical figures, Métis leader and politician Louis Riel. On the surface, it might seem that the story of Louis Riel and the Red River Rebellion do not have anything to do with Mennonite history in Manitoba. On the contrary! The Red River Rebellion and Manitoba's subsequent entry into Confederation on May 12, 1870, are actually integral to Mennonites settling in Manitoba.

   The Government of Canada purchased all the land belonging to the Hudson's Bay Company in 1869, then promptly sent out surveyors to divide this new piece of Canada into lots so it could be settled by English-speaking immigrants from the east. This worried the people who already lived in what is now Manitoba. About half of the people living here were French-speaking Catholics, many of them Métis, and they were concerned that their way of life was coming to an end. First of all, the surveyors were dividing the land into square lots instead of the long-but-narrow river lots already used in the Red River settlement. More importantly, even though people had lived and farmed there for generations, they did not have clear title to this land and were concerned that it could be taken away from them. 

   In response, Louis Riel prevented the surveyors and government-appointed governor from entering the settlement. He seized Fort Garry and established a Provisional Government to negotiate with the Government of Canada to represent the concerns of both the Métis and British-descended inhabitants. Delegates sent to Ottawa on behalf of the Provisional Government negotiated Manitoba's entry into Confederation on May 15, 1870. For many years thereafter, Louis Riel's accomplishments were overshadowed by the execution of Thomas Scott in 1870 and the 1885 Northwest Rebellion, which lead to Riel’s execution for treason. But in more recent times, he has become recognized as the founder of Manitoba.

   Once Manitoba officially became a province - and once Treaty One was signed, handing over title of Indigenous lands to Canada - it was opened up for settlement. Mennonites were looking for a place where they could live freely according to their culture and religious beliefs, and the Canadian government was willing to provide that for them in Manitoba. The Mennonites were allowed to worship in their own way and live in block settlements, and they were granted freedom from conscription. Thanks to the concessions that Louis Riel negotiated, they were also allowed to teach their children in the German language.

   Diaries and histories of the East Reserve contain numerous references to Mennonite/Métis encounters. A Métis man guided Mennonite delegates through the East Reserve in 1873 when the Mennonites were scouting out the land. When the first group of Mennonites landed at the junction of the Rat and Red Rivers in 1874, Métis were hired to haul Mennonites' belongings to their village sites. Mennonite and Indigenous midwives learned skills from each other. Many Steinbach Mennonites did business with Métis in Ste. Anne and noted their excellent hospitality. 

   The Canadian Government was often more willing to make concessions for Mennonite settlers than for the Métis or First Nations. The boundaries of the East Reserve (current R.M. of Hanover) were moved so they didn't infringe on the mostly-English Clearsprings Settlement, which had been established prior to 1870. However, Métis families had also claimed land in the East Reserve before it was established, but the government did not recognize their claims. It took more than 20 years to resolve this issue.

   Because of their relative isolation, Mennonite communities were probably not aware of the serious tensions between Indigenous peoples and the government. They did, however, benefit directly from policies that we now recognize were harmful. It is important to also recognize this, especially as we celebrate the life of Louis Riel.

Calendar of Events

-        March 5,  7:00 PM - Vespers Service

Village News

Opportunities at MHV

   Contrary to possible assumptions, a museum is an exciting and meaningful place to work. There are numerous reasons why one might choose to become involved in the work of Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV).

   MHV is a place that tells stories, often to children. It’s a place to enjoy the outdoors and the animals in the barnyard. MHV has many interesting old buildings, complete with old furnishings and appliances. Our windmill is a unique feature that is not usually found in other communities. It’s simply a fun place to spend time.

   MHV provides meaningful and significant services to the community. As a well-known tourist attraction, it annually brings thousands of tourists to our city from more than 50 countries. As a community gathering place, it provides space for company picnics, family gatherings, weddings, business meetings and conferences. Our Livery Barn Restaurant offers a delightful setting to enjoy Saturday Brunch or Sunday Buffet with family and friends. Our festivals are events which bring people together to celebrate and nurture community.

   MHV offers unique out-of-classroom learning experiences to many schools in the province. Collaboration with other organizations like the Steinbach Arts Council, the Steinbach and Area Garden Club, and Eden Foundation also create valuable synergies.

   In order to make all of the above things happen, we need staff, both paid and volunteer. Now is the time of year when we review our needs and begin recruitment. There are many attractive opportunities available for your consideration.

   Our Livery Barn Restaurant will need a leader as well as support staff. This restaurant operates seven days a week from May 1 to September 30, offering a number of salaried positions. Our short-order booth operates on festival days and requires a significant crew of volunteers to prepare and serve burgers, fries, pop, ice cream and other treats. We will again need numerous people to help with various projects in the areas of yard care and facilities maintenance. Our riding mowers actually make cutting grass quite enjoyable.

   Our Education Program will become particularly active in April. We will hire some university students to administer the program and will also invite many volunteers to assist with delivery of the program to school children. Throughout the summer, our staff and volunteers will have the opportunity to host many daycare groups and be involved in our Pioneer Day Camp program.

   Involvement in the work at MHV offers numerous benefits to both paid and volunteer staff. Perhaps the most significant benefit is experiencing the fulfilment that comes with service to one’s community. It is rewarding to be part of an initiative that creates community health and helps make this community a great place to live and work and raise a family.

   Additionally, registered volunteers are given a season pass to the museum and don’t need to pay admission to attend. Both paid and volunteer staff can buy meals at the LBR at a 50% discount when they are working.

   Let us know where you would like to get involved at MHV this summer. We’ll be glad to answer any questions you may have.

Village News

The Brandordnung Story

   In July 1941 my dad was milking a cow in his barn in the Neuanlage settlement during a thunderstorm. Lightning struck the barn and shot down the metal stanchions, killing the cow outright and stunning Dad. We don’t know how long he lay there, but eventually he regained consciousness and staggered to the house, white as a ghost.

   We had never known exactly when this happened, but I recently saw the early records of something called the Brandordnung. This was a fire-insurance scheme in effect from when the Mennonites first arrived to the middle of the 20th century. And there it was. A claim of $15 for the cow in 1941. Now we knew.

   The Brandordnung wasn’t really an insurance company in the modern sense, although it did evolve into one later. It was a clever scheme with no up-front premiums. Each participant would assess the value of his or her own buildings and register this with the local Brandshultz (village fire manager), who would forward this data to the Brandaeltester. This person had the data for virtually all Mennonite holdings in the province. Later the scheme was extended to Mennonite communities in Minnesota, North Dakota, and Saskatchewan.

   After a fire, the damage would be assessed, and to get the money for the claim, all of the Brandshultzes would have to go around the villages and collect levies proportional to each family’s self-assessment.

   The scheme was so clever because when making the self-assessment the farmer was caught between two constraints. If he assessed too high, he would be stuck with high levies after someone else’s fire. If he assessed too low and had a fire himself, he would have a low pay-out. So he would have to self-assess judiciously.

   Some of the Brandordnung records have survived to the present. These consist of eight ledgers with handwritten gothic-script entries. They will be deposited in the EMC Archives at the Mennonite Heritage Centre (MHC) in Winnipeg, but they have also now been digitized and are available electronically at the MHC (8.1 Gb).

   One benefit of these records is that we can trace the economic history of each village according to changing assessments. This approach is especially important for the 19th century, when participation in the Brandordnung was nearly universal among Manitoba Mennonites.

   Let’s have a look at how assessments changed in the East Reserve Kleine Gemeinde villages from 1875 to 1900. For the first six years or so, all the villages are roughly comparable. Then the smaller villages start to disappear from the records, and rising assessments occur mainly in the villages in the north-east township: Steinbach, Blumenort, Blumenhof, and Neuanlage.

   The most obvious observation is the meteoric rise of Steinbach’s assessment. It rises more than 10-fold in those 20 years, while the other successful villages barely make it to 2-fold. Why? The obvious answer is that commercial activity was consolidated there, at the expense of the other villages in the East Reserve. But why did this happen in Steinbach? One reason might be that some Mennonites collaborated with the Clear Springs people who lived in the outskirts of the village and were quite progressive.

   The preservation of old records such as these helps to remind us that cooperative behaviour within a trusting community is the norm for societies that care deeply for the unfortunates in their midst. My father had a large family, and I’m sure he felt supported by the community when the local Brandshultz delivered the $15 in cash for the loss of his cow.

Village News

MHSC Meets in Winnipeg

   “This feels just like our weather in southern Ontario,” stated one of the Executive Committee members of the Mennonite Historical Society of Canada (MHSC). Winnipeg’s weather was mild and rainy, not what MHSC members have learned to expect when they come to Manitoba for their Annual General Meeting (AGM) in late January. Approximately 20 people representing organizations from British Columbia to Quebec gathered there from January 19–21, 2017, for various committee sessions, a board of directors meeting and the AGM.

   The MHSC is made up of member organizations including six provincial Mennonite historical societies, five Mennonite church conferences and their respective archival bodies, and various other Mennonite institutions, such as Mennonite Central Committee Canada (MCCC), Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) and others. This year the Mennonite Heritage Museum in Abbotsford, BC, and the Humanitas Anabaptist Mennonite Centre at Trinity Western University in Langley, BC, were formally accepted as members of the MHSC. Member organizations combine efforts to research, preserve and interpret Mennonite history in Canada, including the Dutch/Russian and the Swiss Mennonite experiences.

   One of the Society’s projects is the support of the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (GAMEO), a repository of Mennonite information from around the world. MHSC members are encouraged to submit articles to the site and also participate in an editorial role.

   Under the leadership of the Chair of Mennonite Studies at the University of Winnipeg, the MHSC supports the work of the Divergent Voices of Canadian Mennonites, a group that plans conferences on a variety of topics of interest to Mennonites. Conferences have addressed The History of Aboriginal-Mennonite Relations; The Return of the Kanadier Mennonites: A History of Accomplishments and Challenges; War and the Conscientious Objector; and most recently, Mennonites, Land and the Environment. The theme for the 2017 conference, taking place October 19-21, is Mennonite/s Writing VIII: Uprootings and Dislocations. This conference will feature papers addressing the Russlaender Migration in one way or another.

   Another project of the MHSC is the Mennonite Archival Image Database (MAID). This is an electronic collection of historical photos available for research and publication projects. The committee overseeing this project is contemplating expanding the database to include archival documents which are not necessarily photos and renaming it the Mennonite Archival Information Database (still MAID).

   This year’s MHSC Awards of Excellence were given to Dr. Lawrence Klippenstein and the late Dr. Helmut Huebert (1935-2016). Dr. Klippenstein is well known in Canadian Mennonite historical circles for his work with historical committees and societies, his work with the Mennonite Heritage Centre (1974-1997), his writings in various publications, and his other significant roles in the field. He is currently on the Board of Directors of MHV.

VN 2017 02 02 Dr L KlippensteinRoyden Loewen, Vice President of the MHSC presenting Dr. Lawrence Klippenstein with his award of Excellence. Also present Conrad Stoesz, Archivist at the Mennonite Heritage Centre.VN 2017 02 02 Dr L Klippenstein

   Dr. Helmut Huebert of Winnipeg was an orthopedic surgeon by profession and an avid Mennonite historian. He did extensive research and writing in the area of maps, working together at times with the late William Schroeder, also an avid Mennonite mapmaker and researcher. Ten books and atlases have been credited to Dr. Huebert, including Molotschna Historical Atlas (2003) and Mennonite Medicine in Russia: 1800-1930 (2012). It is a privilege to honour the work of these individuals with Awards of Excellence.

Dr H Huebert VN 2017 02 02Royden Loewen, Vice President of the MHSC presenting Dr. Helmut Huebert’s Award of Excellence to Dorothy Huebert. Also present Jon Isaak, Director of the Centre for MB Studies.

   Projected dates for next year’s MHSC meetings, to be held in Alberta, are January 19-20, 2018.

Calendar of Events:

February 5 – Vespers Service 7:00 PM

Village News

VN 2017 01 26 new map









   Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) is pleased to announce that we are installing a new exhibit in our Permanent Gallery. At long last, we are updating our world Mennonite membership map! This has been several years in the making, and we are so pleased that it is nearing completion. Our new exhibit will be called Mennonites Around the Globe.

   Our current map was installed in 1990 and hasn't been updated since, so it's sadly out of date on a few levels. First of all, Mennonite World Conference membership numbers have changed drastically since 1990, and secondly, it still references the USSR and East/West Germany! It is more than time for a change.

   Mennonites Around the Globe is an interactive touchscreen exhibit showing up-to-date statistics on Mennonite membership around the world. MHV partnered with several organizations and individuals on this project. Mennonite World Conference shared their membership numbers. Designer Anikó Szabo made our exhibit look nice. PeaceWorks Technology Solutions designed the software. The Historic Resources Branch of the Government of Manitoba and the MHV Auxiliary provided funding. Because the map is now connected to MWC's database, the numbers will be updated automatically, so we won’t have the same issues we have had with our current map. The touchscreen has been installed and the software activated, so it is technically ready to use; we are just waiting for the interpretive panel to be printed and images chosen for the screensaver.

   Visitors will find our new map located near the end of our Permanent Gallery. Progressing through the gallery, we introduce broad concepts in Mennonite history and then focus on more specific themes. Placing our new exhibit near the end brings our visitors' focus back to the larger view. Even though MHV focuses on the specific story of Russian Mennonites, this is far from the whole Mennonite story.

   In southern Manitoba, when we think of Mennonites, many of us tend to think about people with the last name of Reimer or Janzen or Ens who say "oba" and eat vereniki. If we're feeling generous, we might also acknowledge the existence of Swiss-German Mennonites with last names like Yoder, Schwartzentruber, or Bender and eat popcorn. Up to approximately a hundred years ago, these stereotypes would have been roughly accurate, as the Mennonite faith initially grew because Mennonites had large families, not because they converted other people. This is due to historical circumstances and the origins of Anabaptist groups. Mennonites were persecuted in the 16th century, and later on were only allowed to worship as they pleased as long as they worshiped unobtrusively. At that point, they could not share their faith with their neighbours without the threat of punishment. As there was safety in numbers, and as Mennonites believed strongly in the separation of church and state, they maintained a distance from the "world," living in their own communities. This meant that Mennonites primarily lived with and married other Mennonites, passing down family names and traditions that we think of as "Mennonite."

   By the late 19th century, they no longer feared punishment for sharing their faith and began to evangelize outside of their own communities. Since that time, Mennonites have primarily spread their faith through personal relationships and missions organizations, not by having lots of children. Currently most of the people who identify as Mennonite have no idea what vereniki are. According to Mennonite World Conference, about two-thirds of the baptized believers who belong to Mennonite or Anabaptist-influenced churches are African, Asian, or Latin American. North America only accounts for just under a third of Mennonites around the world.

   Would you like to see this for yourself? Come visit MHV any time during the week between 9 and 5 to try out our new Mennonites Around the Globe exhibit.

Calendar of Events:

-   February 5 – Vespers Service 7:00 PM

Village News

Strategic Priorities

   In many respects it’s rather quiet at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) at this time of year. Tourists are spending time in warmer locations. Schools are busy in classrooms and are waiting for warmer weather to plan their field trips. Other than our construction projects and the need to clear snow after storms, activities on the yard are sparse. So winter is the time of year we focus on strategic planning for our upcoming season.

   MHV has established three strategic priorities for our institution. Each one is supported by a number of specific initiatives and action plans.

1. Cultural Stewardship – “Our mission as a museum is to collect and preserve artifacts and stories and to use these to teach our guests the significance of the Russian Mennonite history.” In doing this we also create tourist traffic and provide community festivals and a gathering place for people to meet. Together these contribute to community health.

   Under this priority we have education and collections-management initiatives. Our action items for 2017 will include development of a French-language education program, realignment of our education program with provincial curriculum, development of collaborative initiatives with local schools to create new learning opportunities for local students, updating collections procedures, evaluation of our collections database software, and auditing and reconciling our collection of artifacts with the electronic database and our paper files. All are intended to enhance the effectiveness and the efficiency of our work.

2. Organizational Sustainability – “In order for the organization to flourish today and in the future we need to be intentional in anticipating the challenges to growth and addressing them proactively.” We will undertake actions that will engage future generations, emphasize public relations, and support environmental sustainability. These actions will include reviewing our value proposition for members, donors and volunteers; celebrating Canada’s 150th anniversary; further developing our recycling and composting strategies; and reducing consumption of energy, paper and plastics.

3. Financial Health – “Financial health is critical to the organization remaining functional.” Tourism, our business units and fundraising are the initiatives we will employ in our quest for improved financial health. We will develop new programs to engage community members and tourists in hands-on programs, write and initiate a marketing plan for the new Summer Pavilion, create a new exhibit for wedding shows, tweak our sponsorship program with a goal of 20% growth in sponsorship funds, develop a new fundraising event, and launch Year Two of our Foundations for a Strong Future development initiative.

   In addition to these focused action items, we will continue to collect artifacts and develop exhibits; plan and deliver summer festivals and fundraising events; operate the Livery Barn Restaurant, Village Books and Gifts, the General Store and our facility rentals program.

   Our facility rentals initiative will be featured in our exhibit at The Wonderful Wedding Show at the RBC Convention Centre in Winnipeg on January 21 and 22. Couples interested in information about MHV wedding rentals but unable to attend the show should feel free to email Roger at [email protected].

Calendar of Events:

-   January 21-22 – Exhibit at the Wonderful Wedding Show at the RBC Convention Centre, Winnipeg. 11:00 am - 6:00 pm.

-   February 5 – Vespers Service 7:00 PM

Village News

Five Hundred Years

   Last Sunday the Steinbach Mennonite Brethren Church, my home congregation, celebrated its ninetieth anniversary. In providing the audience with a brief historical background of the church, Walter Fast referred back to the beginning of the protestant reformation 500 years ago.

   Martin Luther (1483-1546) was born in Eisleben, Germany and developed an early interest in personal piety and a monastic lifestyle. He began his university education in 1501 achieving a Master’s degree in 1505. Later that year a dramatic incident in his life, which he perceived as a sign from God, caused him to terminate his study of law and enter an Augustinian monastery. In the ensuing years Luther continued his studies, received his doctorate, and became a professor of biblical studies.

   In 1517 Martin Luther published documents which refuted some of the teachings and practices of the church of that day. He had two major emphases: The Bible, not church officials, provided ultimate authority in matters relating to Christian faith; and salvation and the forgiveness of sins could only be received from God and not through “good works” or the purchase of “indulgences”.

   At that time the church and the state were virtually one and the same. This put Luther at odds with both, and in 1521 he was excommunicated from the church.

   Luther’s teachings had by this time initiated a broader reform movement, part of which included the Anabaptist movement. Anabaptists were those who set aside the practice of infant baptism, a fundamental practice of the day, in favour of adult baptism where adults made a choice to receive baptism. Felix Mantz, Conrad Grebel, and Ulrich Zwingli were some of the more prominent leaders of this movement.

   Menno Simons, the one whose name the Mennonites adopted, provided significant leadership to an element of the Anabaptist movement some years later. Our gallery describes the work of Simons as follows: “Menno Simons left the Catholic priesthood in 1536 to give new direction to a demoralized and violent Anabaptist movement in the Netherlands. He emphasized peace, the separation of church and state and a Bible-based faith and life. His motto: ‘For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.’ 1 Corinthians 3:11”

   Since then this group of Mennonites has migrated from The Netherlands to Prussia (Poland) to Russia to Canada, and to Paraguay, Mexico, and other Latin American countries, in search of farmland and freedoms to live out their beliefs relating to religious practices, education and exemption from military involvement. Migrations have typically been precipitated by severe persecution or a loss of these freedoms.

   While Mennonite Heritage Village remembers the culture that this people group developed during their migrations over almost 500 years, it is important that we also remember the faith movement that gave rise to these migrations and this culture.

Village News

2016 in Review

   As is usually the case at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV), 2016 was a good year in some respects and a difficult year in others.


   The Gerhard Ens gallery exhibits were highlights for us. Our curatorial staff created a wonderful exhibit in recognition of the 100th anniversary of women being given the right to vote in Manitoba. Beyond Tradition: The Lives of Mennonite Women discussed and illustrated four areas in which Mennonite women have sometimes stepped into less-traditional roles and excelled in them: Uprooted – Women bringing their families out of the former Soviet Union, particularly during the Great Trek; Working 9 to 5 – Women working in professions such as midwifery and nursing; Church Work – Women serving as missionaries, Sunday School teachers, etc.; Unhitched – Single women taking on roles uniquely suited to them because they didn’t have traditional familial responsibilities.

   For part of the summer season we replaced this exhibit with Ray Dirks’s Along the Road to Freedom, 26 paintings and stories of women who had to take on heroic roles to get their families out of the Soviet Union under dire conditions.


   Our collection of Mennonite artifacts, now well over 16,000, continues to grow. We received and accessioned items that tell an important Mennonite story, that we don’t already have, and that we have room to store properly. This year we refreshed our Collections Policy, our Collections Conservation Policy, and our Collections Disaster Management Procedure. We have also installed new climate control equipment in the galleries, lab and artifact storage room.


   Due to weather and a few other situations beyond our control, MHV’s festival attendance was considerably lower than it’s been in the last few years. This has had a significant impact on our general revenues. However, participation in our Education Program was similar to last year. We are very grateful for all the volunteers who supported us during our various events and programs despite an unusual number of alternate volunteer opportunities in our community around the same time.

   Our daily attendance, rental revenues, and gift-shop sales have all increased somewhat over last year’s levels. Restaurant meal sales were down from last year, due largely to the lower attendance at our festival days. Support for our sponsorship program and for our Foundations for a Strong Future campaign has also been very good. We are deeply grateful for the financial support we receive from our constituency.

Foundations for a Strong Future Campaign

   The encouraging progress of our Foundations campaign has allowed us to move forward with our facility restorations and new construction. Early in the year we installed new furnaces and air-conditioning units in the Village Centre. During the summer we repaired and painted the exterior of the Old Colony Church. The Windmill received fresh paint on all the white surfaces, as well as new louvres in the sails. The Waldheim House is currently having its log structure refurbished, and the construction of the new Summer Pavilion is well underway, with a planned completion date of mid-April.

   We celebrate all the successes of 2016 and remind ourselves where they have come from, and as we consider the things that didn’t go quite according to plan, we look for ways to make improvements for next year at MHV.

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.