by Gary Dyck
With all these waves of a pandemic, isn’t it nice to have some anchors in the boat? Recently, I heard someone refer to museums such as the Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) as an anchor institution. Anchor institutions include non-profit organizations that once established do not move. Like a boulder in a field. For example, MHV has been on the same 40 acres since it’s incorporation in 1964. A city may grow around it and all kinds of new buildings come and go, but we will hopefully always be here. In fact, as time passes our century old buildings and artefacts become even more valuable.
Recently, I gave Charles Loewen (former CEO of Loewen Windows) a tour of our grounds. As we looked over the pond, he said: “You know that window factory over there (pointing south towards Steinbach), maybe it will be around another 50 years, but this place, this place will always be here. More and more, it is projects and places like this that our foundation likes to invest in.” And you know, Charles Loewen might be right. Research experts with Community-Wealth.org agree: “emerging trends related to globalization—such as the rise and decline manufacturing, the rise of the service sector, and a mounting government fiscal crisis—suggest the growing importance of anchor institutions to local economies.” Such institutions can permanently benefit local community wealth building, we are building up our endowment and what we offer the community at the same time.
Anchor institutions are enduring non-profits such as museums that can benefit community welfare and culture year after year, decade after decade and eventually century after century. The challenge for us at MHV is keep that going. Mellon Foundation researcher Karen Brooks Hopkins writes: “When a performing arts center or museum engages as a truly proactive, dynamic presence in its community, the results can build bridges, boost morale, and create opportunity… institutions are most impactful when they strive for deep and multifaceted connections with their communities.”
Our desire at MHV is to be proactively relevant to a variety of people. For the newcomer who needs to learn what Mennonite culture is. For the next generation to know and experience where we have come from and what we have learned along the way that will help them today. For young families and individuals in search of wellbeing and more. And of course, for us to learn from our neighbours and provide a safe place for helpful learning.
With this in mind, MHV now involves a variety of participants in our annual exhibit development. We have a new wellbeing initiative and are increasing the use of our pond area and woods. We are meeting with the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba to learn from them how we can better honour our context here. Our author nights give voice to several local writers and their wisdom throughout the year and more. As you consider your year-end giving, we hope you will support the on-going work of anchor institutions like MHV.
MHV gift shop and galleries are open Tuesday to Saturday. MHV galleries are a great place to learn Mennonite history. Village Books & Gifts offers a selection of unique and collectible items. They also provide flat-rate shipping on all products. For customized pricing on smaller or larger items, please call (204) 326-9661 this Christmas!