October 19, 2023
By Gary Dyck
Now that the summer season is over for museums like Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV), it is time for us to learn from others and keep pivoting. There are at least five museum gatherings I’m attending in the next 30 days which show how strong and vibrant the museum culture in Manitoba is.
First, this past Saturday, the Manitoba Signature Museums met in Morden with the Winnipeg Foundation and Endow Manitoba. We were challenged to make Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAG). We heard from the newly reopened Royal Aviation Museum about their 15-year campaign that raised 48 million dollars. They also have three full-time teachers on their staff to create an amazing education program. The chair of their board also shared, “there is too much infrastructure and capital to treat your museum as a charity model; you need to treat it with a business mentality (for-profit). You can’t have regular losses.” Too often, non-profits like museums don’t value the worth they provide their constituency and don’t ask enough of their clientele and staff.
Second, this week the Association of Manitoba Museums (AMM) provided a one-day course on Collections Management. It covers a lot of detail about accessioning, cataloguing, risk management and more. I would not make a good curator, and so I’m thankful that I can just support this detailed work from the side.
Up next, I will be attending the National Heritage Trust of Canada conference in Ottawa. This is Canada’s largest heritage learning and networking event. Each year, the conference brings together 500+ participants from a rich diversity of backgrounds – from professionals (emerging and established), craftspeople and advocates to developers, planners, heritage site operators, academics, students, and volunteers – from across Canada and beyond. This vibrant annual gathering features challenging and inspiring case studies and lessons from heritage practice, communities, and industry, along with productive debate and goal-setting discussions. It did not take long for them to sell out this year.
In November, the Eastman and Interlake museums will have an in-person meeting which MHV hosted last year. In the morning, museums provide reports on successes and challenges from the past year. It is cathartic to hear how people have similar struggles with pests, repairs, staffing and finances. We also benefit from where others have found success in those common challenges. The afternoon includes presentations from the Manitoba government, insurance brokers and a local museum tour. Finally, sprinkled throughout these 30 days are meetings with my MHV executive, board, capital campaign committee, finance committee, the Steinbach Community Foundation, several staff meetings, and a day for strategy planning with my management team. As you can see, autumn can be just as busy for museum staff as the summer. Learning and planning precede and follow everything we do!
The village buildings and Livery Barn Restaurant are now closed for the season. However, you are still welcome to enjoy the grounds and check out all the waterfowl activity around the pond. MHV also has two galleries including the award-winning Russländer exhibit, which is about the Mennonites who immigrated from Russia to Canada in the 1920s.
Christmas Market, November 11, 1-6pm. Our Christmas Market will feature local vendors, children’s crafts, and hot lunch! Admission is a Tin for the Bin, new toys, or a cash donation to Southeast Helping Hands.
Local Authors Night, November 15, 7pm. Join us for a night of local authors, celebrating the books written in and about Southeast Manitoba. Includes live music and refreshments.