Village News (January 3, 2019)
By Barry Dyck
Highlights of 2018
While not everything we did at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) in 2018 went according to plan, we had numerous highlights in various areas of our work.
As defined by its mission statement, MHV is first and foremost a museum. One of the highlights of our museum operations this past year was the creation of our current exhibit in the Gerhard Ens Gallery, The Art of Mennonite Clocks. This joint initiative between MHV and the Kroeger Clocks Heritage Foundation is an outstanding display of 33 old wall clocks, along with stories about each one. A station in the gallery invites guests to leave a note with an observation about the exhibit or a sketch of a clock. We have enjoyed unprecedented participation in this aspect of the exhibit, receiving many comments and drawings.
A museum is also an educational institution. The education programs at MHV attracted thousands of children again this past year. Normally most of this activity takes place during May and June when school classrooms are doing field trips and in July and August when daycare centres do field trips. But in 2018, students continued visiting the museum in September, October and even November. We also worked on some experimental initiatives with administrators and teachers from the Hanover School Division. These activities are in keeping with our goal of being a museum that engages its constituency year-round, not just for five months in summer.
Because MHV is an impressive and professionally operated museum, we are also an international tourist destination. Each year we have guests from more than 50 countries. In 2018 our visitor count as of the end of October already exceeded our number of recorded visitors for all of 2017. Each year our staff and volunteers have interesting stories to tell of encounters they have had with people from other countries.
A new monument has become an added attraction for our tourist clientele. The Peace Project Committee donated and erected the Dirk Willems monument in November. This monument is a visual expression of the value and importance of empathy and love for all people, a teaching which has applications in our homes, in our workplaces and around the world.
In addition to being a museum and a tourist destination, MHV is also a community meeting place, and thereby a community builder. Thousands of guests attended our festivals and other events in 2018. A number of new events were introduced during times of the year when we normally haven’t had much activity at the museum. We offered a Teen Gala for our youth, a Winter Carnival for families, and an Author Reading Event for anyone who enjoys books. A downward adjustment in our membership fees resulted in a doubling of our annual membership numbers. Many of the new members are young families who see MHV as a fun place to spend time as a family, during a festival or at any other time.
The use of our facilities by individuals and community organizations grew substantially in 2018. Our new Summer Pavilion was in frequent use as a venue for a variety of community events such as corporate staff picnics, fundraisers, class reunions, birthday parties, and wedding receptions.
Our Livery Barn Restaurant experienced a good increase in business this past year. This restaurant addresses all three functions of MHV as described above. It serves ethnic food to help interpret Russian Mennonite culture. It provides tourists with an “experience,” which is often referred to “experiential tourism”. And it provides a venue where community members can relax and socialize around a great meal.
We believe that the many highlights MHV has experienced during 2018 have also helped improve the quality of life in our community. Our plan for 2019 is to improve still further on our 2018 experiences.
Calendar of Events
December 23 to January 7: Closed for Christmas and New Year’s
January 10, Auxiliary Film Night – Seed to Seed – 7:00 PM
February 7, Second annual Author Reading Event – 7:00 PM
February 15, Teen Gala – Western Night – 7:00 PM
February 16, MHV Winter Carnival – 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM