The Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) is opening up a new exhibit come mid-February. 

The exhibit is called "Mennonite Heritage Photography: Views from Manitoba 1890-1940."

The photographs used in the exhibit from Johann E. Funk come from MHV’s artifact collection, which contains almost four dozen of his glass plate negatives.  

Another glass slide from photographer Johann E. Funk.Another glass slide from photographer Johann E. Funk.

These small glass plates (approximately 5” x 7”, though some are smaller) are over 100 years old. 

Amazingly, the images are of such high quality that when they were professionally scanned, they could be printed at a very large scale for the exhibit.  

Senior Curator from MHV, Andrea Klassen, is amazed at the quality of these photos from so many years ago. 

“The photographs, particularly of Johann Funk, they are blown up to at least eight feet wide, so they'll be the biggest ones in the exhibit. Just because the quality is so good, it allows us to do that kind of a thing, and so you're almost like meeting these people eye-to-eye.” 

She says it’s amazing to see such a high resolution. 

“When you have old photographs like this, if you have a good professional person scanning them, the sky is the limit. It puts our modern technology to shame, I think.” 

The photos from Johann E. Funk were taken over 100 years ago, as Klassen says he practiced from 1890 to 1904.  

The exhibit showcases the work of four Mennonite photographers: Johann E. Funk and Heinrich D. Fast from the former Mennonite East Reserve, and Peter G. Hamm and Peter H. Klippenstein from the former Mennonite West Reserve.   

Klassen says two of the four were encouraged to give up photography when they got married. 

“Marriage would then also equal typically your introduction into the church as full members of the church, and so now it's time to leave those kind of worldly things behind. Johann Funk was one of them.” 

She says the collection of photographs tells a story. 

“The exhibit brings all these photographs together to give us a look of what was life like, not in the first few years of settlement, but in the first couple decades. Starting with the 1890s up until the 1940s.” 

Klassen says there is a huge variety of stories and history that come out of these photographs. 

“They're taken of everything. I mean, it's amazing what people hired a photographer to take photographs of,” she says. “You have inventories of your livestock, photographs from funerals, you have some photographers taking cute photos of their kids. From the formal to the informal, it's a really neat glimpse into village life in Manitoba and Mennonite villages at that time.” 

The new exhibit was produced by the Mennonite Historic Arts Committee, which is made up of professionals in the heritage industry who have an interest in Mennonite history.  

“Roland Sawatzky was a part of that, he works at the Manitoba Museum. Susie Fisher, she is the curator at Gallery in the Park in Altona. Myself, I was on the committee, and then Conrad Stoesz is the archivist at Mennonite Heritage Archives in Winnipeg.” 

“Mennonite Heritage Photography: Views from Manitoba 1890-1940” opens at Mennonite Heritage Village on February 15 at 7:00pm.  

They don’t have a final end date for the exhibit yet, but Klassen expects it will close sometime this summer. 


With files from Michelle Sawatzky