Mennonite Church Canada has a pair of new partners to help preserve and obtain Mennonite archives and artifacts.
The church announced a new partnership with Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) and the Centre for Transnational Mennonite Studies, who will both contribute to the financial well-being of the Mennonite Heritage Archives, located at the Mennonite Heritage Centre on the CMU campus.
"The Mennonite Church Canada has been going through a restructuring process and was looking for partners to help run the archival program," said Conrad Stoesz, the archivist at Mennonite Heritage Archives Gallery. "We hold some very important documents explaining the history of Mennonites and the history of Manitoba here."
"This will provide a stronger foundation going forward."
The three partners held an event at the Mennonite Heritage Archives Gallery on Oct. 5, 2017 to celebrate the re-launch of the archives.
"Now we have three partners contributing to the funding of the program and this will be a benefit to a lot of Manitobans and CMU students," said CMU President Cheryl Pauls. "We can now bring these archives into student projects and it can be used by families seeking to find their own genealogy who are seeking a new way to interpret the story of their own past."
Pauls says Mennonite archival work began in the 1920's and 1930's primarily in Russia, where the government began destroying old documents in those communities.
Stoesz says it was that time period when the long history of archival work within the Mennonite community began.
"We collect materials that document the Mennonite experience in Canada," said Stoesz as he pulled out the original copy of the land entitlement agreement between the Government of Canada and Mennonite settlers, a document that also exempts them from military conscription. "We have diaries, journals, meeting minutes, correspondence, audio recordings, films, maps, photographs and a whole host of things."
Hans Werner is the Executive Director of the Delbert Plett Foundation, which is a partner with the Chair for Mennonite Studies in the Centre for Transnational Mennonite Studies at the University of Winnipeg.
"It was a good time to restructure the archives and put them on sound financial footing," Werner said. "Historians and students need archives. They need sources for their stories and their projects so we need to continue to make these documents available."
"We need to preserve our history and pass along the stories of Mennonite people."
The Mennonite Heritage Archives are located at 600 Shaftesbury Blvd in Winnipeg on CMU's south campus. It is open from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm Monday to Friday.