It is the essential responsibility of every museum to preserve its collections, offer meaningful experiences for visitors, and make its rich resources available to students and researchers. Much like a library or laboratory, museums function as a place of discovery for those seeking to write a thesis or even create a work of art.

I have had the pleasure of assisting several researchers during my time here. Each researcher comes with a focus, seeking primary sources or inspiration but also bringing fresh ideas and perspectives. Last year, accomplished artist Kandis Friesen spent several days photographing a variety of artifacts, including Russian currency and magic lanterns, as well as shadowing my work in collections management and conservation in order to better understand the inner workings of museums. [For more information on her work visit kandisfriesen.com]

Most recently, Susie Fisher and Paul Bergman spent some time looking at our library, artifact collection, and past exhibit files. Susie Fisher is a PhD Candidate at the University of Manitoba. She describes her work as follows:

"Mennonites built their communities on the steppe-like prairie of southern Manitoba's Red River Valley in part by using the few items they brought with them from Russia. Mennonite men and women, no doubt, placed affective or emotional values on these items by way of their daily use and in their inter-generational preservation. My work on material culture and emotion looks at the ways greater attention to the historical ’feelings’ present in these everyday items (such as vegetable and flower seeds, or Russian Imperial Porcelain teapots and the ways they came to represent love, longing, home, etc.) generate more nuanced understandings of Mennonite migration, rural community life, family obligations, moral expectations, gender roles, and the experiential dialects of proximity and distance. The knowledgeable staff at the Mennonite Heritage Village, and the extensive archival collection present here, have been invaluable during the research stage of my current project."

Paul Bergman, a Southern Manitoba musician, was keen to learn more about Mennonites and secular music. Of special interest, however, was our Dietrich Funk Collection, donated by Al Hamm. Dietrich Funk (1904-1966) was both a Mennonite and a modern western musician. He played guitar, sang, and wrote many sacred and secular songs. Paul remarks:

"Music, like most everything, is inevitably and inextricably threaded to and from the past, and it is an endearing and moving endeavour to gaze back at words and melodies that look a lot like those left by my guitar-slinging grandfather. I have the Mennonite Heritage Village archives, along with their attentive and helpful staff, to thank for that. And also, where else would I have found out about Smiling Dick, the Saskatchewan roamer?"

One need not be writing an M.A. thesis to access a museum’s resources. We lend out books from our small library and are happy to assist casual researchers by appointment. In this way MHV provides an invaluable resource not only to the academic community but also to artists, musicians, and folks who are simply curious about their heritage.

Calendar of Events
  • February 1 – Vespers Service – 7:00 PM

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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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