Mennonite Heritage Village

Introducing Garth Doerksen, MHV’s New Assistant Curator

December 7, 2023

By Gary Dyck with Garth Doerksen

This week Garth Doerksen has joined the team at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) as our new Assistant Curator. We are happy to have someone administratively gifted like Garth as this position. Recently I asked Garth some questions so that you can get to know him better as we hope he will be here for many years.

Welcome to MHV Garth! What is your background growing up, education, previous work, etc?

I grew up in Blumenort, not far from here (MHV), got an education degree at University of Manitoba, met my wife at university. We then took jobs in the Winkler area, both taught there till 2021. I also was a school principal for most of those years.

Where is your wife from?

The Whiteshell.

You don’t hear that very often.

No, you don’t. Her dad was the director at Camp Nutimik.

What attracted you to MHV and this role?

I always had an interest in Mennonite history. It came mostly from my grandfather and father who were both very interested in it. I helped my grandfather with data on the scattered graves of the Kleine Gemeinde (EMC) here in the area in the early 1990s. He and other members have also donated items here (MHV). Having lived across the river in Winkler, we still owned property here (Blumenort) in the 1990s from my grandfather, so we always planned to retire back in Blumenort. So working or volunteering here (MHV) one day was always in the back of my mind. It is a way of contributing and commemorating our history. It is important to tell and know the stories of where we come from. If we have a better understanding of where we come from, we have a better understanding of how to live today and raise our kids. The Mennonite story is unique, it is important to preserve.

Anything else we should know about you?

Delbert Plett (Mennonite historian) was my uncle and so his stories were a part of family gatherings. Also, there was a fairly small group of Mennonite families that moved from Blumenort to Haskell County, Kansas in the early 1900s. Things were going well, but then the dirty thirties came. My great grandfather was needing to find farmland for his kids, but when the dustbowl hit there were some years where they didn’t even take the combines out as there was nothing to harvest. They then moved back to Blumenort, bought poor land, which was stoney, but it ended up becoming a helpful gravel pit. BTW, Haskell Country was the hardest hit area of the dustbowl. So, fifteen years ago my niece and I obtained a Delbert Plett grant to study the archives of that time in Kansas.

Oh, my wife Mary-Anne and I have travelled to over 50 countries. Primary focusing on the developing countries, not so much Europe.

Did you see any of the Anabaptist sites in Europe?

We did. The Menno Simons memorial in Witmarsum, Netherlands and his hidden church.

Thanks Garth, for your time. I hope our visitors and volunteers will give you a warm welcome the next time they see you at MHV!

Upcoming Events:

Winter in the Village, On Now to February 24, Come celebrate the winter season with us! Weather permitting, enjoy festive lighting and Christmas music in the village with some hot chocolate every Friday and Saturday till 8pm. Once there is enough snow there will also be curling and skating on the main rink, a snowshoe trail, tobogganing and kicksledding, as well as a new skating trail throughout the village.

“Keeping Time: The Art and Heritage of Mennonite Clocks” exhibit is being presented at the Manitoba Museum. Visit the exhibit from Oct. 27-Feb. 25. This is an exhibition developed by Kroeger Clocks Heritage Foundation in partnership with Mennonite Heritage Village.