Year in Review
After a year of 50th Anniversary celebrations, we had expected that 2015 might be a quieter year, but that was not the case. With a new exhibit to be designed, staff to be hired and trained, heritage facilities to be maintained, festival and fundraising events to be planned, and many guests to be hosted, we found ourselves appropriately engaged in, and challenged by, the work of Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) throughout the year.
Our theme for 2015 was Mennonite Food: Tastes in Transition. The primary exhibit in our Gerhard Ens Gallery, as well as a photo exhibit by the Steinbach Regional Secondary School photography class in our Auditorium Gallery, addressed that theme well. We are pleased when we can partner with local institutions and organizations in this way.
Approximately one hundred new and interesting artifacts were added to our collection during 2015. The stories that accompany many of these artifacts are so interesting and add much value to our collection. Three local radio stations provide us with live on-air time every other week to talk about one of our artifacts. This is a great way of sharing our collections with our constituency.
While overall attendance at our museum was higher than in 2014, our spring and summer Education Programs, aimed at the primary grades, saw reduced attendance in 2015. We suspect that several new public attractions in the province may have contributed to that decline. Despite having to cancel Spring on the Farm due to snow and cold weather, our combined attendance at festival events was up considerably. Canada Day registered just over 5,000 visitors, well beyond the number of guests attending on any other single day. Ideal weather conditions and free admission can be credited for this strong showing. The Livery Barn Restaurant saw increased sales in 2015, due in part to the popularity of our Sunday Buffet.
Building restoration and facility maintenance are large and important initiatives at MHV. With the help of the RM of Hanover and a Community Places grant from the Government of Manitoba, we were able to put new shingles on the roof of the Livery Barn Restaurant and replace our four humidifiers in the artifacts storage and exhibition areas. Repainting of the Old Colony Worship House and the barn in our farmyard had to be postponed to another year.
Although saying farewell to staff who decide to move on is always sad, it is also exciting and energizing to welcome new staff. In addition to the many fine seasonal staff members who joined our team in 2015, we welcomed Patricia West as Development Coordinator, Edna Klassen as Bookkeeper, Alexandra Kroeger as Assistant Curator, and Jo-Ann Friesen as Gift Shop Manager. They have all quickly found their place in our organization.
For most of 2015 our finances have been on budget and better overall than in 2014. Contributing to this success were three Federal Government labour grants for the hiring of our summer staff. These grants were all specified for student employees who would be returning to school in the fall.
In October, MHV was recognized by the Association of Manitoba Museums with the Award of Excellence in Research and Publication for A Collected History: Mennonite Heritage Village, the book we launched in December 2014. This book tells the story of Russian Mennonites through photographs and narratives about a number of our artifacts, as well as special MHV features. It’s a wonderful souvenir for our guests.
At the end of this largely successful season, MHV announced a new and significant development initiative, Foundations for a Strong Future; Family, Faith and Community. This multifaceted initiative seeks to build and strengthen our foundations for ongoing growth and development. It includes items such as the restoration of the Waldheim House, our first and oldest heritage building; construction of a Summer Pavilion to replace our big tent; replacement of furnaces and air conditioners in our 25-year-old Village Centre; payment of our remaining debt; enhancement of our endowment fund; and the restoration of a number of other heritage structures. We are aiming to raise $3,000,000 over three years to accomplish all these goals.
Again we are grateful for God’s blessings, which include all the human and material resources we’ve been given in 2015.
Our offices at Mennonite Heritage Village will be closed from noon on December 24 until Monday, January 11. Happy New Year from the staff and the Board of Directors at MHV.