By Roland Sawatzky

As I reflect on my time at this museum since 2003, I feel myself at home among the museum’s artifacts, not because of their research potential or their worth as antiques, but because they have allowed me to get to know the people behind them. This includes the young man who made a sewing box for his fiancé in 1906 with hundreds of individually cut pieces of coloured straw, utilizing a centuries-old multiple star design. It also includes the middle aged Mennonite man working in a copper mine in Yugoslavia who, ill and without children, gave his young Russian co-worker his family heirloom – a tobacco box made of cow horn. The wife of this Russian man would later donate the piece to the Mennonite Heritage Village, and it seems to me this act of donating to our museum was as touching as the first gift. Finally, I think of the dress we have of a girl who died too young, and the mother who kept her little dress in a drawer in the house for decades. The emotions of all these people, illustrated with these simple, beautiful objects and tied so humbly to the wider arc of history is what I will remember most about the museum’s collections.

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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.

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