This was the 50th anniversary year of Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV), and so much of our attention was given to things related to celebrating. Our staff, volunteers and constituency pitched in, and we celebrated in a multitude of ways.
Early in 2014, our Curatorial Department created two exhibits specifically for this festive year. A Growing Community Collection: 50 Years has displayed a sampling of our 16,000 artifacts in the Gerhard Ens Gallery. The Auditorium Gallery has been hosting Mennonite Heritage Village at 50, chronicling the development and growth of our museum.
Another project spanning almost the entire year was the production and publication of our book, A Collected History: Mennonite Heritage Village. Past and present MHV curators teamed up to research, write and manage the production of this fine work, which was successfully launched in early December. The book provides bits of insight into some of the artifacts in our collection and provides an overview of the Russian Mennonite story beginning in the 16th century. It is designed as a souvenir for guests of our museum.
One of our efforts to introduce the public to our new publication involved taking one of the artifacts that would be featured in the book to the local radio stations for our weekly Thursday spots and telling the story associated with that object.
A number of special events were planned as part of our celebrations. The MHV Auxiliary organized a film night, a special Sunday afternoon Faspa including a drama presenting the history of the Auxiliary, and a fall turkey dinner. They also teamed up with the Steinbach and Area Garden Club to present a garden tour in the summer.
Volunteers provided leadership and support in presenting a Founders Night, where the museum’s earliest visionaries and leaders were recognized; a Story Night, where about a dozen people told stories of their experiences at MHV and how those experiences have impacted them; a Schmeckfest Jubilee - an evening of great food, socializing and fine entertainment; and a Sunday afternoon Saengerfest, including Faspa after the concert.
Our regular festivals - Spring on the Farm, Canada Day, Pioneer Days, and Fall on the Farm - were all themed to highlight our year of celebration. Rain had a negative impact on attendance at the first two festivals, but warm sunny weather apparently had a positive impact on attendance at the latter two. A unique feature at this year’s Pioneer Days festival was the demonstration of a late 1800s well drilling rig by Friesen Drillers.
Our Education Program was also tweaked to help the children celebrate with us. Attendance in the program was strong, with the last group of the year coming late enough to get a horse-drawn sleigh ride.
Looking after our facilities had little to do with our 50th anniversary celebrations and everything to do with current needs. Grant funding allowed us to paint the Lichtenau Church building and the Steamer Shelter, install electric door openers in the Village Centre, and install new eves troughs on four heritage buildings. Leaking roofs and failing air conditioners required immediate emergency repairs.
We struggled throughout the year with most of the usual financial stresses, in part due to unanticipated emergency repairs. On the other hand, we also experienced the blessings of a substantial bequest from the estate of a former board member, as well as the raising of almost $200,000 toward reduction of our debt, in response to a private matching-grant initiative.
We give thanks to God and to our many volunteers and other supporters who helped us through a busy but successful year. We are grateful for all who chose to “Celebrate With Us.”