By Andrea Klassen
Photo: The Fordson F tractor anchored 2020’s exhibit “MCC 100 Years”.
At this time last year, we could not have foreseen the kind of year 2020 would be. While it is generally the case that we cannot see the future and, if anything is certain, it is that we never do really know what life has in store for us, 2020 was a uniquely challenging year for individuals and organizations alike. Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) was no exception. With that caveat, however, let me invite you into the curatorial department at MHV to review some of our highlights of 2020 and to look ahead to some of our plans for 2021.
We opened our exhibit “MCC 100 Years” in late June to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), an organization with deep roots in our history as Mennonites in North America and in Russia. We partnered with MCC Manitoba on this exhibit and, especially when COVID struck in spring, I was very grateful for their assistance in sourcing photographs, finding artefacts to display, and working with them on telling the remarkable story of this organization.
Our temporary exhibit is a major task for the curatorial department each year and consumes most of our time for about half the year. In the other half of the year, however, projects related to the collections abounded and we made excellent progress on our ongoing artefact inventory. This is a project that checks the physical location of each artefact in a specific area of the collections storage room to the information we have stored for that object in our artefact database. It also gives us the opportunity to improve storage conditions (for example, by adding extra padding around fragile ceramics or adding acid-free tissue paper between layers of clothing stored in an acid-free box) and to make the best use of our storage space.
Looking ahead into 2021, the curatorial department has some big plans that we are very excited about! Research, writing, and planning for our new exhibit, “Mennonites at War,” is well underway and we are aiming for an opening date at the end of May 2021. If you missed MHV’s preview of the exhibit, hosted by TourMagination on December 1, search for “youtube tourmagination” to get there. As well, Assistant Curator Kara Suderman and I have been busy cleaning up our database records in anticipation of a very exciting project that will see our database migrated to a brand new, web-based collections database. Led by the Association of Manitoba Museums, we hope to officially start the project in summer 2021.
Our plans for 2021 also extend into the outdoor village with preparations for a multi-year project that will see all our outdoor interpretive signs replaced with new ones made of aluminum that will withstand our harsh climate for many years to come. Also on our horizon is the restoration of the Chortitz Housebarn. This heritage building was one of the earliest to be moved to the museum grounds. Before COVID struck, we had plans in place for this project in 2020; however, the grant we received for this project has been held over to next summer, so we look forward to fixing the building’s foundation, repairing the central brick oven to bring it to up to a condition where we can once again use it for demonstrations, and re-painting the entire exterior. And last, but not least, we look forward to the construction of the pergola structure in the Peace Exhibit, creating the accompanying interpretive panels, and beginning the work on the Dirk Willems Peace Garden. All of these projects will make for an exciting, albeit very busy, 2021 in the curatorial department!
As we look back on the last year, which has been full of challenges, and forward to next year, MHV would like to thank all the people who donated artefacts to the museum’s collection in 2020 and to our volunteers, visitors, donors, and members. Many good things happened at the museum in 2020 but it was still a very challenging year and we appreciated all the support we received. We could not have done it without you! Merry Christmas and we hope to see you again in 2021!
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