Outdoor Signage Project
The traditional layout and historic buildings at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) create a spirit of place quite unlike any other. Every effort is made to make visitors feel as though they have stepped out of the contemporary and into an immersive historical environment – a Mennonite village circa 1874 through the 1920s. In order to preserve this atmosphere, written interpretation such as labels and panels are intentionally sparse and carefully placed, about one per historic building. In recent years, many of these interpretive panels have been rotting and in need of replacements, while several historic buildings have been awaiting some form of interpretation. This season, we worked to meet both these needs with funding from the provincial Heritage Grants program.
Aging interpretive signs have now been replaced with fresh designs for the windmill, the Chortitz oak tree, our piece of the Berlin Wall, the orchard, the vegetable garden, the Reimer Store, and the Hoeppner Memorial. As well, a completely new sign for our sawmill was installed just last week. This sign is especially exciting because ours is no ordinary sawmill. It interprets a significant part of Canadian history and a major tenet of Mennonite culture and identity – the story of pacifist beliefs in a time of war.
This sawmill was used by conscientious objectors (COs) in the Alternative Service camp at Riding Mountain National Park during World War II. While stationed here, COs built and improved roads, chopped firewood, and used the lumber from the mill to build bridges and a dam, as an alternative to engaging in military service. Thousands of COs in Canada worked in forestry and agricultural industries, completed infrastructure projects instrumental in developing Canada’s national parks, and served in hospitals and mental hospitals across the country.
We plan to install several more signs in the village, including a completely new one for the Peters Barn. This barn arrived on the museum grounds in 2006 and has been undergoing restoration, such as the re-shingling of the roof in 2013. The new sign will tell the story of the Peters family and draw attention to the barn’s unique Dutch-style lap-notch joinery. This last set of signs will complete our outdoor interpretive panel project, with refreshed signage ready for next year’s season in the village.