By Roland SawatzkyOn Friday February 21 at 7 pm, the Mennonite Heritage Village will host a double exhibit opening and public presentation about the museum collections. The evening is inspired by our 50th Anniversary in 2014, and our theme for the year, Celebrate with Us.
The main exhibit, in the Gerhard Ens Gallery, is a showcase of our museum’s artifacts, which have been collected over the past 50 years. The museum is the steward of almost 16,000 artifacts spanning centuries, certainly more than we can share at any one time. This exhibit gives us the chance to show both the breadth and the quality of the collection, which continues to grow every year.
In recent discussions with other curators, we talked about the sheer numbers of items in the collections at our different institutions. Do we have too many things? This is something every museum curator needs to ask. Is having one representative object of a cultural tradition enough?
Let us say there is only one work of “fraktur art” allowed in the collection that represents this tradition once common to Mennonites. Is this effective or useful? Do we then know anything about the tradition and what it meant to people? My answer would be no, simply because one piece does not make a representative sample. It takes a collection to make sense of the material culture of the past. But it is the individual objects that make that collection special.