Artifacts are a critical element in the preservation and interpretation of our history. Because Mennonite Heritage Village does not have a budget to purchase artifacts, we are entirely dependent on donations from our constituency. A significant donation consisting of a number of items arrived at MHV recently. I asked Jocelyn Lehotsky, our Assistant Curator, to share some information on this particular donation.
“It is always exciting when new donations arrive at the Museum. The initial opening of a box of new donations can bring forth strong feelings of curiosity and anticipation. One may revel in the thought of discovering historical materials that are steeped in interesting stories. The first donation received in this New Year was a prime example of this kind of experience.
“The first donation of 2012 includes a rich assortment of items: Baby shoes, a pear-shaped butter dish, a small pitcher, a little teapot made in Russia, a silver spoon, an embroidered wall hanging, a couple of cloth napkins, a table runner, a pair of crocheted gloves, an embroidered hand towel, lace, a 25th wedding anniversary painting, and a leather case or pocket book.
“All of these items belonged to Nettie Rogalsky (Nov. 28, 1922 - Sept. 27, 2011), the donor’s aunt. Nettie’s story is that of the Russian Mennonites who migrated to Canada. Nettie arrived in Canada with her family in 1924. I will highlight only a few of the items that have been generously donated to and accepted by MHV.
“A pair of adorable, velvet baby shoes originally belonged to Nettie Rogalsky. They were made specifically for Nettie by her uncle, Abram J. Rogalsky. Nettie’s mother, Marie Rogalsky (nee Peters-Enns), told her that the sides and heels of the shoes are worn because Nettie kicked and wore the material down. The colour of the shoes has faded significantly, but the soles reveal the deep, majestic purple velvet they once were.
“The pitcher is considered an antique and belonged to Nettie’s mother, Marie. It was a wedding gift for her first marriage in 1911 to Mr. Heinrich Enns, who passed away in 1919 in Hospital 'Muntau' at the age of 31 years from blood poisoning. Nettie’s mother told her he was infected by sick horses. This pitcher may actually be a beer stein as it is designed to look like a miniature barrel and has a vine spiraling up the pitcher handle. The vine extends onto the barrel and hops hang from it. There are three heads of barley growing, on each side of the handle, out from the base of the vine.
“The wall hanging is about 0.6 m x 1.07 m (2 ft x 3.5 ft) with a red border and is delicately embroidered with red thread. The embroidery depicts a young girl standing on the left side, reaching up with a bowl. A young child is kneeling above the girl, filling the bowl from a small jug that has been filled with water from a fountain featured at the top central part of the hanging. Embroidered across the middle is 'Frisches Wasser Giebt Frischen Muth' or 'Fresh Water Gives Fresh Spirit.' According to Nettie Rogalsky, the wall hanging was used to protect the wall behind the washstand. There was usually a large basin and pitcher with fresh water on the stand. However, Nettie does not remember the wall hanging being used in their household here in Canada.
“Several of these treasures will soon be on display in the main lobby of The Village Centre at Mennonite Heritage Village. I invite you to come and see them for yourself.”