About two years ago Roland Sawatzky, then our Senior Curator, suggested that MHV consider producing and publishing a book as part of our 50th Anniversary celebrations. This would not be a book specifically about the museum's 50 years of growth, nor would it describe our 50th Anniversary celebrations, both of which would shorten its shelf life.
This potential project was still in the early conceptual phase when Roland chose to take on new challenges at a different museum in early 2014. So we paused to consider how this change would impact such a project. Roland offered his assistance on a volunteer basis, as he saw this project to be of great importance. But would it be possible to pass on his significant vision for this book to a new MHV curator?
We shared the concept with Andrea Dyck soon after she became our new Curator. Her response was that she could buy into the project and, with Roland's support, would like to proceed. By this time, a number of months had passed, so the project only got underway in earnest late this past summer. Since then, Andrea and Roland have been very focused on getting the book to press and have now met their goal of having it available for Christmas. To their credit, this highly pressured timeframe didn't cause any compromises in the quality of the finished product.
Roland's vision, which has now been realized, was to select about 50 artifacts from our collection, photograph them, and write brief narratives of the stories behind each one. These specific items were selected to tell the Mennonite story, going back to its beginning in the sixteenth century.
The first photo in the book is an image of Martyr's Mirror, the book that chronicles the persecution of early Anabaptists in Europe. A picture of our Semlin (basically a sod hut over a hole in the ground) relates to the arrival of the first Mennonite settlers in Canada, who arrived in late summer and spent the first winter living in a structure like this. Additional photos of artifacts that came along with immigrants from Russia in the 1920s and 1940s tell dramatic stories of the tumultuous events which led to significant numbers of Mennonites immigrating to Canada. One of the last artifacts highlighted in the book, a medal from Podolsk, Russia, brings the story of the Russian Mennonites into the late twentieth century.
This book is a beautiful and simply presented volume of Mennonite history which has been designed as a souvenir of Mennonite Heritage Village. It informs our guests and supporters of the stories we tell here and will also remind them of our mission to preserve and interpret Russian Mennonite history.
Two book launches have been arranged.
December 6th, 2014 at 7:00 PM at McNally Robinson, Winnipeg, MB
December 9th, 2014 at 7:00 PM at Mennonite Heritage Village, Steinbach
At each venue, refreshments will be served and the authors will be available to sign copies. Please plan to attend.
We are grateful to the sponsors who made it possible for us to undertake this significant publishing project: Golden West, Triple E Recreational Vehicles, Friesens Corporation, Friesen Drillers, Penner Farm Services, and the Rural Municipality of Hanover. The input from production staff, peer reviewers, and editors contributed to the quality product that you will find on the bookshelf.