Last week our Assistant Curator, Jessica McKague, was making some changes to a few of the exhibits in our Permanent Gallery, so I invited her to explain to our readers what she was doing – and why. Here is what she wrote:
“The Permanent Gallery’s name can be deceptive because the gallery is under constant renewal and modification. Indeed, many additional upgrades have been planned for the future. While the essential story of the Russian Mennonite journey from the time of Martin Luther to 20th century Manitoba continues to be told, the artifacts used to illustrate this story continuously change.
“The Permanent Gallery’s displays are constantly circulated in order to show as much of our rich collection as possible and also to protect our artifacts from overexposure and damage. The longer that any one object is exposed to daily light, the more its colours will fade. Of particular concern are our artifacts composed of more vulnerable materials such as textiles and paper. This is why displayed fabrics must be taken down and new ones put up at least once every one to two years.
“For this reason I have recently changed the clothing section of the Permanent Gallery. Last year a summer student, Nicole Dunn, displayed four mannequins exemplifying traditional Mennonite formal wear, as well as several particularly interesting pieces of textile working, such as a delicate angel Christmas ornament and a yellow cotton pocket-watch holder.
“Surrounding the textile display area are various photo images of Mennonite families wearing traditional clothing. To complement these photos, I decided to show the articles not represented in these images, namely wintertime outerwear and the normally hidden underwear. The wintertime aspect draws on our extensive collection of heavy fur coats and boots. These precious items were commonly brought over from Russia and put to good use during Manitoba winters. Likely due to modest Mennonite sensibilities, traditional underwear is rarely donated.
Currently on display are such items as a camisole, a Russian petticoat, and a pair of men’s sock garters.
“Fraktur Art comprises another section of the Permanent Gallery. Fraktur is a type of illustration combined with calligraphy practiced by the Dutch Mennonites and others. As it is done in ink or watercolour on paper, it can fade rapidly, so this is another case in which much care is taken to minimize exposure. Soon the present display case will be completely changed to include new examples of this intricate art form.”