Mennonite Heritage Village

Museums Need the Individual

by Gary Dyck

Recently I’ve been writing about how mass movements change the world. This includes the Protestant Reformation, Black Lives Matter, and the on-going Heritage movement that is keeping history alive so we can all learn from it. This week I want to write about how museums like the Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) need individuals.

It is the individual that predisposes himself to either receiving benefit from a museum or not getting anything out of it. The more we learn about a topic, the more we can engage with it and benefit from new input. Today, when I was having lunch outside, I saw a father and son ‘kicking the tires’ of our horse carriages. For a long time, they crouched over and examined the wooden wheels. They knew something, had experienced something that I had not. However, if our minds are open, I’m sure we could learn a lot from them. A few of us have trouble going to a museum more than once, but I know there is so much a museum like MHV has to offer throughout the seasons. Museums need individuals to come ready to receive what they have to offer.

We think we are logical objective thinkers, but we are not. How we grew up, how we dealt with life’s ups and downs and how we perceive greatly influence how we see the world. Maybe English poet William Blake was right when he wrote: “As a man is, so he sees. As the eye is formed, such are its powers.” Blake should know, at age ten his parents recognized his artistic talent, took him out of grade school and enrolled him in drawing school instead. He became one of the greatest artists from England. “As the eye is formed, such are its powers.”

As a museum MHV tries hard to develop objective content that is relevant and thought-provoking to our visitors. However, as Beat Rink in his article, Art from a Christian Point of View points out, “it is not the aesthetic experience itself, however, but the co-operation of one’s own will that brings the desired fruit. This is an important point: the effect of art – including its own ethical effect – is decisively influenced by the recipient.” When you walk into a social institution like a church or museum, you need to be ready enter into a relationship with that institute and what it has to offer.

So, at MHV, we try to make it comfortable for you to come in and enjoy your time here. We have three sets of washrooms, a restaurant in the middle of the grounds, several seating areas, a map for newcomers, succinct informational panels, a scooter or wheelchair for those who need it and now vapour barriers, masks and a more stringent cleaning regimen! We know that if you are too busy taking care of your physical needs or worried about something in the environment that you won’t be able to take in much of our Mennonite heritage. Our museum is only as strong as your individual experience, so let’s come together and strengthen our eyes to see and our minds to grow!