Village News

VN 2018 10 11 

 Most of the donors from whom Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) receives artefacts have personal connections to the items they bring to us. They are often relics of family history, having been kept in a family for generations, and have become a way for their owners to connect to their past. Some artefacts hold these connections more deeply than others. We recently received a donation of a number of items that had once belonged to a woman whose short life ended in tragedy. Her wedding dress, a hooked rug, and a set of embroidered pillowcases are some of her daughter’s only connections to the mother she lost at an early age.

   Anna (Penner) Friesen was married to Henry Friesen on July 21, 1918. They farmed and raised their children near Niverville, Manitoba. Around 1930, Anna developed tuberculosis and was placed in the St. Boniface Sanatorium (now known as the St. Amant Centre). She stayed there only until 1931, when she moved in with her parents, who cared for her until her death in December of the same year. She left a husband, three sons, and the youngest child, a four-year-old daughter, Anne.

   Construction of the St. Boniface Sanatorium was an unemployment relief project during the Great Depression. Fully completed in 1931, the facility held 250 beds. According to Anna’s daughter, her mother was one of the first patients to stay at the sanatorium. Patients infected with tuberculosis, a contagious disease affecting the lungs, were isolated in such sanatoria, where they could rest and get fresh air and a good diet. Termed the “rest cure,” this was the common treatment for TB until the 1950s, when antibiotic treatment was developed. (Source: Canadian Public Health Association)

   With all the “resting” that patients were to do, there was an excess of free time. Isolated without family in a sanatorium, Anna kept her hands and mind busy with needle and thread. The above-mentioned hooked rug and embroidered pillowcases were made by Anna during her time there.

   Although not donated to our museum, the family also kept two braided plaits of Anna’s hair. According to Anne, her mother’s hair became very uncomfortable as she lay in bed for such long periods of time. At Anna’s request, her husband Henry cut off her long braids, which were then carefully stored for decades by Henry and later by his daughter. In 2017 these braids were donated to an organization that provides wigs to those who have experienced hair loss due to medical conditions.

   These personal items show us how an object can act as a physical memory of something that has been lost. For Anna’s family, they have served as reminders of her since her death in 1931. They have been particularly treasured by her daughter, who never had the chance to really know her mother. Anne noted that her father rarely spoke of her mother over the years. However, it is clear through his preservation of her belongings that he wanted to keep a physical memory of Anna for himself and for his children.

Calendar of Events

*MHV Off-Season Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 9:00 AM-5:00 PM* 

October 20, Third Annual Local History Lectures – 7:00 PM

November 4, Vespers Service – 7:00 PM

November 10, Christmas Market

 

Photo Caption: Hooked rug made by Anna Friesen

Village News

Summer Season in Review
   The summer season at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) is often thought of as our “busy” season, and rightly so.

   Summer 2018 was no exception. Our grounds and the outdoor buildings got a lot of attention, with repairs to buildings, improvements to walkways and ramps, regular yard maintenance of trees and grass, care of the animals and fieldwork. The Livery Barn Restaurant was open seven days a week from 10 AM to 4 PM with buffets, catering events and regular service to customers, featuring our traditional Russian Mennonite menu. With expanded hours and an increase in visitor traffic, Village Books and Gifts was kept very busy assisting guests with book enquiries, providing information about Mennonites and Mennonite history and culture, and offering unique souvenirs as a reminder of their museum visit.

   Fundraising was ramped up, with planned public events nearly every month, which brought supporters to the museum and to the great Manitoba outdoors. Our venue rentals were at a premium, with both our Auditorium and our Summer Pavilion in demand for weddings, receptions, and business or family picnics. On top of all this heightened activity, our curators were busy bringing their 2018 exhibit plans to fruition in our Gerhard Ens gallery, as well as coordinating improvements for the outdoor village. This place was really “humming!”
   However, beyond this general day-to-day busyness, the most visible aspects of our MHV summer were our festivals and other public events. It is amazing how many visitors attend our large festival events in summer. Canada Day (July 1st) was our biggest one-day event, drawing nearly 4,500 people to our grounds to celebrate our country, listen to music, taste exceptional food, and enjoy family and children’s activities--all in a pioneer village setting. We are very grateful for the collaboration that we have experienced with the City of Steinbach in promoting this annual holiday and setting the tone for the fantastic Canada Day fireworks to be held at the soccer park later that evening.
   As usual, Pioneer Days, during the August long weekend, was our biggest weekend of the summer. We celebrated our local heritage with four days of demonstrations and activities that relived the early years of the settlers who decided to make Southern Manitoba their home after travelling thousands of miles, across ocean and continent, in order to live out their faith as they believed they should. It is always fascinating to listen to the memories of our volunteers and our visitors, who understand that pioneer life was not easy, but everyone was doing their best to follow God and to participate in the community of faith.
   We wrapped up our summer festivals on the Monday of the September long weekend, with a one-day, fun-filled event which we call Fall on the Farm. Just as the early pioneers had daily, weekly, and seasonal routines, the museum also continues to interpret and demonstrate the activities which would have happened at the end of the crop growing season and the start of preparations for winter. This year we once again demonstrated the harvesting of crops, the field work involved in preparing the soil for the winter, and some of the farmyard activities that fill the food cellar with good food for the cold winter ahead.
   Our summer programming has relied on hundreds of volunteers to assist us with maintaining our yard, serving food, welcoming guests, and interpreting through demonstrations and guided tours. To acknowledge their valuable and essential service, we held a Volunteer Appreciation event on September 27. 
   Summer 2018 has now come to an end at MHV. As we enter the Thanksgiving season, we are truly grateful to have had a very good season. Thousands of visitors from around the world came to hear and experience the Russian Mennonite story from the 16th century to the present.
   It was a wonderful summer of meeting people, welcoming the community, and working together so that MHV can continue to be a valuable community meeting place.

Calendar of Events

*MHV Off-Season Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 9:00 AM-5:00 PM* 

October 20, Third Annual Local History Lectures – 7:00 PM

November 4, Vespers Service – 7:00 PM

November 10, Christmas Market

Village News

Finished restoration east exposure  WH Western exposure

 

Museum Wins Award of Excellence

   After years of dreaming, research, fundraising, and project management, Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) has been recognized by the Association of Manitoba Museums (AMM) with an Award of Excellence for the Waldheim House restoration project. The award was presented to Andrea Dyck, MHV Curator and manager of this restoration project, on September 21 at the annual conference of the AMM, held at MHV this year.

   The vision to restore the Waldheim House with a new thatched roof and other structural repairs began many years ago. Our records indicate that the original house, built in 1876 and the first building to be brought to our museum site, did have a thatched roof.

   A number of things needed to come together to allow this project to happen. We needed to find a sufficient supply of Phragmites Reed for the roof, a craftsman with the skills to install the roof, a contractor who could repair the exterior log walls and the interior plaster walls while maintaining an 1876 look, and the required funding for this substantial project.

   In 2015 we received a Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program grant from Western Economic Diversification Canada, specifically to restore this heritage structure as an initiative to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary. Additional funding was provided by the Steinbach Credit Union, the RM of Hanover, and the Thomas Sill Foundation, as well as interested individuals, including family members of the original owner of the house, the late Julius Dyck (1852 – 1909).

   We were very fortunate to find a local contractor with both the skill and the passion for this heritage project. The staff of Walls That Speak worked through much of the winter of 2016/2017 to have the house ready for the roof thatching in the summer of 2017. McGhee & Co. Roof Thatchers from Virginia were able to schedule the thatching to coincide with our 2017 Canada Day festival.

   The Award of Excellence has recognized MHV’s engagement of community in this project, the resource we have become for other museums for the repairing of log structures and thatched roofs, and the quality and authenticity of the restoration.

   In addition to recognizing museums and individuals for outstanding achievement, the Annual Conference of the AMM celebrates graduates of the Certificate Program in Museum Practice, offers workshops for museum staff and volunteers relevant to the operation of a museum, and provides opportunity for attendees to socialize and exchange ideas and stories. This year’s conference had 90 participants from across the province.

   MHV is unique among the museums for having sufficient facilities to host this conference onsite. Our Auditorium and the Summer Pavilion were the major meeting spaces. The Livery Barn Restaurant provided all the food services. Our staff did a great job of arranging for this event and providing the necessary services during the conference. The Steinbach Cultural Arts Centre also made its facilities available to us for the opening reception. All the feedback we’ve received indicates our guests enjoyed their time with us.

Calendar of Events

September 27, Volunteer Appreciation – 7:00–8:30PM (all volunteers are welcome)

October 20, Third Annual Local History Lectures – 7:00PM

November 10, Christmas Market

Village News

Toys, Tea Cups, and Chairs

   There are treasures to be found among possessions and antiques we inherit. Although many items owned by my parents (Annie and Almon Reimer) went to the local MCC Thrift Store, the things built by my dad and the antiques were shared among us.

   My siblings and I divided the toys that had belonged to my parents. The first item I chose was actually my grandfather John C. Reimer's toy streetcar. I was surprised to see that this tin toy was still in good condition. My next choice was a red tin bi-plane that had been my father's. It still winds up and runs. I remember Dad had always been interested in airplanes, so this must have been a well-loved toy. Another toy I chose was my mother's German-made, children's sewing machine that actually used to work. It is shiny black metal with lovely gold designs. It still has the original needle. I remember what fun this toy was to play with as a child.

   In my Mom's custom-built teacup cupboard, I came upon some delicate gold-colored, iridescence-lined teacups. I found they were part of an entire tea set, including a teapot, a sugar bowl, small plates and more teacups. Dad told me the story behind this tea set, which had belonged to his mother. Her husband, John C. Reimer, had been a teacher at various one-room schools in the Blumenort area. When important people, such as the school inspector, came to the schools, Grandma would be expected to serve him tea. I can just imagine a few of her molasses cookies on the plates and piping hot tea in the cups.

   A plain wooden chair is a treasure from my great-grandmother, Anna Derksen Sawatzky. She landed in Halifax as a four-year-old with her family. When they came to Manitoba to settle, they had no furniture. After building a shelter, this was a chair they had bought. How many of my family must have sat on this chair, enjoying conversation.

   Another chair I also inherited from Great-Grandma is a black rocking chair with a round set-in leather seat. Through the years it stretched out to form a hollow, so a cushion now makes it more comfortable.

   I brought home a white chipped bench from my father’s house. It played an important part in my childhood and sat behind our white enamel-topped table in the kitchen. This is where “us girls” sat, leaning against the wall, eating our fried potatoes with chow-chow or ketchup and home-made brown bread.

   It has been wonderful to inherit some of my family's things. These treasures are still useful or at least interesting to display.

Calendar of Events

September 27, Volunteer Appreciation – 7:00–8:30PM (all volunteers are welcome)

October 20, Third Annual Local History Lectures – 7:00PM

November 10, 2018 Christmas Market

 

Village News

New Museum Hours

   If we had a dollar for every time someone has asked a Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) staff person, “So what are you doing now that the museum is closed?” we would have accumulated a significant donation by now. It’s true that we close our outdoor village and Livery Barn Restaurant (LBR) from October 1 through April 30. But our indoor museum actually continues to be open five days a week from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM during those months. Despite our efforts to publicize this fact each fall, we still regularly encounter this erroneous assumption that our museum is now closed for the winter.

   As evidence to the contrary, MHV will again be hosting various events during the upcoming winter months. Our Christmas Market will be held on November 10 this year. Several additional events are being planned for early 2019 as well. Stay tuned to this column or our website at www.mhv.ca.

   However, our readers should take note of a major CHANGE coming to MHV this fall. In previous years during the aforementioned off-season, our museum has been open to the public Monday through Friday, 9-5. However, by operating only during those specific weekday hours, we have been making ourselves somewhat unavailable to students and to people with regular weekday jobs. This is about to change!

   Effective October of this year, we will be open to the public TUESDAY through SATURDAY during our off-season. (Closed Sunday and Monday.) With this change, students will now be able to come to the museum on Saturdays to do research on school projects. Shoppers who have weekday jobs will be able to visit Village Books and Gifts on Saturdays to shop (for Christmas or otherwise). Local individuals will have the opportunity to bring weekend guests to MHV on Saturdays to view our galleries, shop in our gift shop, and even walk the outdoor village streets if they care to (although buildings will not be open).

   One of our ongoing objectives at MHV is to be relevant to life in this community. These new off-season hours of operation will make us more accessible to the public and hence increase our community engagement. With our specifically planned public events and increasing numbers of Christmas parties in our facilities, we will continue our quest to contribute positively to the quality of life in Southeastern Manitoba throughout every season.

Calendar of Events

September 13, Fermentation Workshop – 7:00-9:00PM

September 16, Open Farm Day – 9:00AM-5:00PM

September 20, Sourdough Workshop – 7:00-9:00PM

September 27, Volunteer Appreciation – 7:00–8:30PM (all volunteers are welcome)

Village News

VN 2018 09 06VN 2018 09 06 2

Jenna Klassen image

Mennonites, Metis and First Nations People

   On January 18, 1884, Jakob Wall was granted 160 acres of farm land by the Canadian government. Ten years earlier the first Mennonites in Manitoba had begun to establish homes and farms on land given to them by the Canadian government. Although the location of the new settlements may have appeared to be “empty space” to the new settlers, in reality it had been home to over six hundred generations of First Nations people, as well as the Metis nation.

   This past August marked the 147th year of the signing of Treaties 1 and 2 between Canada and the Anishinabek and Swampy Cree of southern Manitoba, and Canada and the Anishinabe of southern Manitoba, respectively. These treaties and the Manitoba Act of 1870 were meant to protect the rights of Indigenous claims to land as Canada continued to grow westward. Unfortunately, many of these promises were broken, or simply never kept, resulting in generations of marginalization of Indigenous communities.

   After the Treaties were signed, the Canadian government implemented incentives for European immigrant groups to settle the land that had become available through these policies. The Mennonites were one of these groups. They were granted large blocks of land (the “East Reserve” in 1874 and the “West Reserve” in 1875), where they could freely live out their religious beliefs and cultural practices in relative isolation from the rest of society. The policies that benefitted Mennonites and other immigrant groups resulted in the removal of Indigenous communities from their home lands and led to the death and suppression of thousands of First Nations people. The legacy of these policies has impacted generations. The 2015 report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (www.trc.ca) outlines the ways in which Canada is still coming to terms with the roles played by the federal and provincial governments, churches, organizations, and individuals in this history and its implications on our country today.

   At Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV), we typically focus on celebrating the way of life, beliefs, and culture of the Mennonites and their success in Manitoba. Sometimes, this celebration has come at the cost of neglecting the relationship between Mennonites, Indigenous communities, and colonialism. Perhaps the most common myth that has been perpetuated in Mennonite history is that the land upon which they settled was not just uninhabited but also “unused” and not properly cared for, and that Mennonites then made it productive through their success with agriculture. Although in recent years scholars have been addressing this myth in great detail, it can still often be too easy to uphold it when commemorating the successes of a community.

   Another aspect of Mennonite settlement that often goes forgotten is the personal interactions that the Mennonites had with First Nations and Metis communities on the prairies. For example, the Mennonite delegates scouting land for the East Reserve in 1873 were guided by a Metis man from the area, and it was the Metis who were hired to carry Mennonites’ belongings on ox carts when they first landed in Manitoba, at the junction of the Rat and Red Rivers in 1874. Katherina Hiebert, who became the first midwife on the East Reserve, exchanged skills and knowledge with Indigenous midwives in the area.

   While these types of encounters between Mennonites and First Nations people can be found in archival sources like diaries and records left by midwives, oral histories, local histories, or artefacts in a museum’s collection, they are often hard to find. Sometimes sources only hint at the existence of interactions and relationships between people.

   For example, a medicine chest that once belonged to Ältester Franz F. Enns, on display in the Permanent Gallery at MHV, hints at the possibility of collaboration or a transfer of knowledge between Mennonite and Ojibway healers. Enns had practiced homeopathy in the Terek settlement in Russia and then continued his practice after he and his family immigrated to Manitoba. The hypothesis of interactions between Mennonite and Ojibway healers is based on the similarities of the herbal sources and remedies noted in Enns’s accompanying notebooks during the time he practiced in Manitoba. To date, however, it is just that: a hypothesis that leaves us with many unanswered questions. Sources like the records left by midwives or the Enns medicine chest require much more research into the life and relationships between Mennonites and First Nations people in the early years of Mennonite settlement in Manitoba. They also, however, invite us to reconsider some of the myths we may have believed about Mennonite settlement in Manitoba and to view our present world and the co-existence of our cultures in Canada in a new light.

   As a community that is proud of its heritage and its past here in Manitoba, it is appropriate to commemorate our history. However, we also need to remember the circumstances that allowed our ancestors to settle here beginning in the late nineteenth century. It can be difficult to accept that the opportunities and successes of the Mennonites in Manitoba were aided by policies that favoured the colonial agenda in Canada. Nevertheless it is vital that MHV, as an historical institution, I as a curator, and the Mennonite community at large, continue to examine the full Mennonite settlement experience and the relationship with colonialism that began in the past and continues in the present.

Suggested Further Reading:

Giesbrecht, Donovan. "Metis, Mennonites and the ‘Unsettled Prairie,’ 1874-1896" Journal of Mennonite Studies [Online], Volume 19 (1 January 2001)

"History of Aboriginal-Mennonite Relations." Mennonite Studies. http://mennonitestudies.uwinnipeg.ca/events/aboriginal.php.

Enns, Elaine, “Facing History with Courage” Canadian Mennonite. Volume 19, Issue 5

 

 

Photo Caption: 1972.5.9, Dominion Lands Grant from the Dominion of Canada to Jakob Wall, 18th January 1884

Village News

Finances – Part III

   Every now and then I am asked, “Where does your revenue come from?” It’s always good to know that people are interested. In Finances – Part II, I explained that 60% comes from our internal businesses, 15% by way of government grants, and 25% from fundraising activities and donations. This article will focus on the “donations” part of our income.

   In 2016 and 2017 our “General Donations” accounted for just over half of the proceeds from our fundraising activities and donations category. Such funds come to us in a variety of ways. We receive individual one-time donations by cash, cheque, credit card or securities (shares); monthly donations through our website (www.mhv.ca) or by preauthorized debits from the donor’s bank account into MHV’s account; corporate donations; and bequests (being named as a beneficiary in a will). These are all appropriate ways to donate, and we welcome all of them.

   Some of these donation methods would be considered “planned giving.” The concept is simply a matter of planning to make a gift, or provide an income stream, to a charity in the future. An example of planned giving would be naming a charity as a beneficiary in one’s will. This can be done in a variety of ways and needs to be discussed with one’s lawyer to ensure that it is done correctly.

   Another form of planned giving would be through a life insurance policy. If a donor purchases and maintains a life insurance policy for which the charity is named as the beneficiary, that charity will eventually receive the proceeds of the policy without shortchanging the estate.

   Some donation methods offer specific tax benefits. Gail Johnson, in an article in the June 28, 2018, edition of The Globe and Mail, discusses a variety of ways to minimize taxes through charitable giving. In addition to avoiding family squabbles, Ms. Johnson says, “If it’s [the life insurance policy] structured properly, the annual premiums can be considered charitable giving, meaning donors receive a tax credit each year.” One’s insurance agent would be able to provide advice on how to set up such a structure.

   Ms. Johnson also comments on the benefits of donating stocks or securities directly to a charity. “Donating stocks that have accumulated capital gains can be advantageous, as you’re donating ‘pre-tax’ dollars.” When stocks are being donated to Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV), they are first directed to Abundance Canada, who then issues a tax-deductible receipt, sells the stocks, and sends the proceeds of the sale to us. This constitutes a "double win" for the donor - first, eliminating the capital gains tax on the stock gain and, secondly, providing a tax-deductible receipt on the increased value.

   Ms. Johnson’s complete article, containing additional ideas can be accessed at https://www.theglobeandmail.com/investing/globe-wealth/article-giving-to-charity-choose-a-tax-savvy-method/.

   We value every gift sent our way, and we call it a win-win situation when the form of giving offers benefits to both the donor and the recipient. Please feel free to contact me at [email protected] if you wish to discuss any of these matters in more detail.

Calendar of Events

September 3, Fall on the Farm – 9:00AM-5:00PM

September 6, Pickling & Canning Workshop – 7:00-9:00PM

September 13, Fermentation Workshop – 7:00-9:00PM

September 16, Open Farm Day – 9:00AM-5:00PM

September 20, Sourdough Workshop – 7:00-9:00PM

Village News

Love Letters and Old Diaries – Part 3

Accounting and Autograph Books

   Going through my father Almon Reimer's papers after he passed away on December 24, 2017, I came upon many diaries, accounting books, and old papers of interest.

   The diaries in which my father wrote were small books with a section in the back for keeping track of accounting. The 1939 diary states, “Overtime – Received $1.61. Paid to father $1.00.”  Dad was not allowed to keep all the money he earned, right until he got married. In August 1944, Almon was paying $19.75 a month for room and board, $1.55 for income tax, $12.41 to the Red Cross (because of the war), and $1.09 for unemployment insurance. His wages were $75.00, so he had a balance of $40.20. At one point in his youth, Almon's father (John C. Reimer) paid him for going on time to work, for going to church and for not smoking. Oh, the challenges of youth!

   Going ahead to Almon's accounting book for December 1956, his wages were $219.70. He managed to house, feed and clothe our family of four children, give to missions, pay for Blue Cross, and even buy some gifts. Family Allowance at that time was $22.00 a month for four children. There was no car in our household at that time yet. Entertainment stretched to The Country Guide magazine – a four-year subscription for $1.00.

   I also found a brown, tattered envelope labeled “Receipts from building Almon Reimer's house on Town Line Road.”  That road is presently called Loewen Boulevard. The house still stands there next to Birch Auto. A bill from C.T. Loewen & Sons says that Dad bought 175 bags of cement at 95 cents a bag on January 30, 1951. This cement was used to build the basement of the one-and-a-half-story house. Fast Brothers of Giroux charged $25.00 for digging the basement on May 20, 1951. On May 21, Almon paid A.D. Kroeker $45.00 for gravel. The house became Dad's ongoing project for years, as he paid for everything in cash. Mom and Dad moved the family into the warm, coal-heated house before Christmas in 1951.

   My mother Annie's family (Sawatzkys) had not kept as many records as my father's family had, but I did come upon one fascinating bit of history. My mother's uncle, F.W. Sawatzky, went to Poland in the 1970’s to find out about our family’s background. He found that the Sawatzkys are descended from West Prussian Polish nobility. The line was traced back to Johannes Zauacky, a Polish nobleman who lived in 1620. This name had changed to Sawatzky by 1776.

   My maternal great-grandmother was Anna Sawatzky, fondly called “Gousie” by the grandchildren. I found her auction sale advertisement for her move from Altona. It showed what kind of items were necessary to run a poor old woman's household at that time. The sale was scheduled for Friday, October 6, in the 1940's. She was selling items such as three barrels, one dishpan, one bench, stovepipes and two axes.

   For Christmas in 1937 my mother got an autograph book. As was popular at the time, Annie passed this little red, velvety booklet among her friends and relatives to give them opportunity to write little verses and wishes for her. Annie herself wrote a verse in the beginning of her book: “Go little autograph far and near, To all the friends I love so dear, And fit each one to write a page, That I may read in my old age.” Her school chum Anna Regehr wrote: “Good, better, best. Never let it rest, Till the good becomes the better, And the better becomes the best.” Another friend wrote: “If you see a cat climb up a tree, Pull her tail and think of me.”

   I feel blessed to have found these historical facts and memories from my parents, grandparents and great-grandparents.

Calendar of Events

September 3, Fall on the Farm – 9:00AM-5:00PM

September 6, Preserving Food Workshop – 7:00-9:00PM

September 16, Open Farm Day – 9:00AM-5:00PM

Village News

VN 2018 08 16 photo

IMG 3909

A Mennonite Wall Clock as Steampunk

   Last Wednesday I walked into the Gerhard Ens Gallery to check out the latest additions left by visitors at our interactive postcard table in The Art of Mennonite Clocks exhibit and read: “My favourite clock [in the exhibit] was the ‘Cadillac Clock’ because it looked like it was from steam punk [sic].” The writing suggests that this particular postcard was left by a younger museum visitor. As you’ve probably guessed, I didn’t have the foggiest idea of what this visitor meant by saying a historical Mennonite wall clock looked like “steampunk.” Fortunately, there’s Google for that.

   Once an exhibit is opened, it always requires some level of regular maintenance and daily tending: artefacts need to be monitored for tampering or damage, cases need to be cleaned of fingerprints and dust, and items that have gone askew need to be straightened. In the case of The Art of Mennonite Clocks, which Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) produced in partnership with Kroeger Clocks Heritage Foundation (www.kroegerclocks.com), this daily tending also involves two tasks that have become a highlight of my museum workdays. One is winding the single clock that we have running in the exhibit (though this seems to be a popular job amongst staff and someone often beats me to it.) The other is checking what’s new at the postcard station.

   When we plan an exhibit, we always try to find ways to make it relevant to our guests. Why should people care about Mennonite history, and in the case of this exhibit, why should they care to spend time learning about this one specific Mennonite artefact? We try to incorporate concepts that will help answer these questions, include visuals that will grab people’s attention and information that will hold it, and then ask questions that will resonate with our guests, both young and old, and make the connection between history and their own lives. This work is always an experiment, so we eventually just open the exhibit and see how it goes!

   The postcard station in this year’s exhibit was one of these experiments. We offer two “postcards” for visitor feedback. One asks, “What is your favourite clock in the exhibit? Tell us why!” The other carries the simple invitation: “Design your own clock face!” This station is a delight to maintain because the response has been overwhelming, especially from our younger visitors! We have already had to re-order postcards twice, and our main tourist season is only half over. Because wall space for posting responses is limited, we decided to start an Instagram hashtag so that visitors can also share their creations online. Find MHV on Instagram at @MHVillage and post your creations and reactions to the exhibit with the hashtag #mennoniteclocks.

   The postcards demonstrate that visitors are spending time in the exhibit, engaging with the content and learning about these Mennonite wall clocks that have so much to tell us about history. They also show that visitors are engaging with each other, as ‘conversations’ sometimes spring up between postcards that have been posted on the wall weeks apart. But the biggest takeaway for me as the Curator is that children are engaging in a way that we did not anticipate. A glance at the postcard wall quickly demonstrates that our younger visitors are spending a lot of time and creative energy designing their own clock faces after viewing the exhibit. Some of my favourites, including imaginative Mennonite wall clocks based on the “Hickory Dickory Dock” nursery rhyme and on the Harry Potter series, are posted at #mennoniteclocks.

   Children that I have observed in the exhibit do not typically engage with it the way adults do. They do not read the exhibit panels and artefact labels in the order the curator would like them to be read. From one point they zip full speed to something else clear across the gallery that catches their eye, and then a moment later exclaim about something else, and run (again, full speed) to the next thing.  Two things intrigue me as I watch this take place: 1. The level of enthusiasm and wonder children can have for the smallest things; and 2. The seeming impossibility of ever getting a point across to an attention span that is two seconds long!

   Although children are engaging with the exhibit differently than adults do, the postcards they leave demonstrate that they are paying attention to these clocks and are captivated by them. A number of younger visitors, for example, have noted their favourite clock was “the one with the right time” or “the one that said 2:36 because that was the right time,” likely indicating their appreciation for the “Living Clock,” the clock that we keep running in the exhibit, which is therefore always on time.

   Another young visitor noted his or her favourite was “the one in the correct Roman fashion.” Assistant Curator Jenna Klassen and I puzzled over this cryptic comment for a moment and then realized which clock this very astute visitor was referring to. While the dials of thirty-two of the thirty-three clocks in the exhibit inaccurately depict the Roman numeral for the number four as “IIII,” there is one restored clock in the exhibit that depicts the number correctly as “IV.” After reading this comment, Jenna and I reviewed the postcards designed by children and realized that most of them flouted convention and mimicked the “IIII” found on the majority of the clocks in the exhibit. They may not read all the labels, but our younger visitors had picked up on this minutest of details that likely slips by most adults. (As an aside, this choice to use “IIII” rather than “IV” on clock dials was to visually balance the dial to be more aesthetically pleasing.)

   Thank you to everyone who has left a postcard on the wall and especially the children and younger visitors who have put so much imagination into their clock creations! And thanks to one unknown visitor in particular, I now know what steampunk is – and I agree, the “Cadillac Clock” does look like steampunk! Be sure to visit The Art of Mennonite Clocks and share your stories and designs on the postcard wall and online at #mennoniteclocks.

Calendar of Events

September 3, Fall on the Farm – 9:00AM-5:00PM

September 6, Preserving Food Workshop – 7:00-9:00PM

September 16, Open Farm Day – 9:00AM-5:00PM

Photo caption: The “Cadillac Clock” as steampunk.  The clock (Acc. No. 2015.30.1) is part of MHV’s collection and was made in 1889).

Village News

Museum Finances – Part II

   We all know how much people enjoy reading, talking and thinking about finances. So I thought we would offer a “Part II” (and maybe even a “Part III”?) to the article we published several weeks ago and make a series out of it. As our faithful readers will recall, Part I dealt with the high-level financial structure of Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV). This article will get us down to a level of more detail.

   We noted in Part I that about 60% of our revenue comes from our internal operations, which include food services, gift shop, facility rentals and admission. 15% of our operating income comes from government grants, and 25% from donations and fundraising activities.

   So one might ask, “Where is that money spent?” MHV’s largest single expenditure is employee costs (wages, benefits and statutory deductions).

   We employ curators to look after our large collection of valuable artifacts and to create relevant, effective and high-quality exhibits for our galleries. Their work requires specialized education and training in Mennonite history and museum operations.

   Our Education Program requires staff with vision, energy and expertise to create and administer programs for 3,000 - 4,000 students annually. The delivery of this program largely falls within four months of the year, so the coordination of the program is quite intense during those months.

   While the hours of operation for our Livery Barn Restaurant are limited to a relatively short day, it needs to function with regularity and professionalism, in strict compliance with government health standards. Approximately a dozen staff members are required in full-time, part-time and casual roles.

   Renting our facilities to wedding parties, businesses, families and individuals requires staff availability at irregular hours, particularly with respect to evening and weekend functions that require supervision. And there are other critical positions.

   This museum has grown over the years and is now well past the stage where it can be run primarily by volunteers, as was possible many years ago. While we still depend on many volunteers for the delivery of much of our programing, all of the abovementioned functions (and others) at MHV require regular and professional attention. Hence our significant labour cost.

   Another area of ongoing major expenditure is facility maintenance, given our host of heritage and commercial buildings to maintain. Our energy costs alone are in the neighbourhood of $4,000 monthly. We can quickly see that this museum has an expense appetite substantially larger than that of one’s home.

   Capital expenditures (sometimes unpredictable) continue to be significant, for new acquisitions as well as the replacement of roofs, furnaces and the like. Our village has 17 wooden heritage structures, all needing a considerable amount of care and maintenance. Most of these costs fall into our capital (or project) fund, which is over and above our operating fund. Right now we have three leaking roofs, a decaying deck on the windmill, and three furnaces that need to be replaced. These are relatively urgent projects, requiring about $150,000 to accomplish.

   Almost three years ago, MHV introduced our Foundations for a Strong Future campaign, established to fund the construction of our Summer Pavilion, the restoration of the Waldheim House, the replacement of all the HVAC systems in our Village Centre, the elimination of our operating debt and the enhancement of our endowment fund. This campaign has so far been successful in that it has generated $2,250,000 toward a $3,000,000 goal. To now complete that campaign, another $750,000 in donations and pledges is needed.

   Yes, it does seem that our need for cash is unending. We invite our constituency to continue to provide regular support, especially for our annual operating fund. We also invite people who value the work of the museum to consider some additional donations toward some of our larger projects and our campaign, without shortchanging our essential operating fund. We encourage you to join us in our mission to preserve and teach our history to youth and adults alike, to create and maintain a community meeting place, and to generate tourism for our region.

Calendar of Events

August 13-17, Pioneer Day Camp for children ages 8 – 10

September 3, Fall on the Farm – 9:00AM-5:00PM

September 6, Preserving Food Workshop – 7:00PM-9:00PM

September 16, Open Farm Day – 9:00AM-5:00PM

The views expressed in Community Blogs are those of the author, and are not necessarily shared by SteinbachOnline.com

Steinbachonline.com 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.

Login