Village News (May 23, 2019)
By Andrea Dyck
One rainy day last week, I was working on some finishing details of the new exhibit, “The Russländer,” in our Gerhard Ens Gallery. As the afternoon’s rain found its way through our leaking roof in the Village Centre, it dropped drip-by-persistent-and-rhythmic-drip into buckets placed strategically to catch them, just around the corner from where I was working.
I came home late that day, completely spent and quite discouraged by my powerlessness with the leaking roof that threatens the museum’s collections and exhibits. I had been reading a chapter of Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne each evening to help my mind rest from the day’s work. That evening I wearily opened the book to where I had left off: “Chapter IX: In Which Piglet is Entirely Surrounded by Water.”
It had been raining for days and Piglet finds himself in a dangerous predicament, surrounded by floodwater that threatens his home. He’s not quite sure how to save himself from the rising flood but then he suddenly has an idea, remembering a story Christopher Robin had told him about a message in a bottle. He quickly begins putting his rescue plan into operation: “He… began to search his house, all of it that wasn’t under water, and at last he found a pencil and a small piece of paper, and a bottle with a cork in it. And he wrote on one side of the paper: ‘HELP! PIGLET (ME)’ and on the other side: ‘IT’S ME PIGLET, HELP HELP.’” He leans out his window and tosses the bottle with its message, his only hope for help, out the window. Then with trepidation, he “watched it floating slowly away in the distance, until his eyes ached with looking”.
Then, A. A. Milne sums up the heart-in-your-throat feeling we may all have shared with Piglet, when we have found ourselves in a predicament we cannot solve on our own. Milne writes: “and then suddenly [Piglet] knew that he would never see [the bottle] again and that he had done all that he could do to save himself.”
It was at this point that I started to re-read the story again, with MHV’s predicament of its leaky roof woven in. As a curator, I have watched with dismay as puddles have formed in our collections area, but also with great gratitude when the water drops have not hit a few feet to the right or to the left, where they might have hit an artefact or an expensive exhibit. We have covered all that it is possible to cover in the artefact storage. We have monitored the galleries and storage areas daily for leaks and fluctuations in relative humidity. But aside from these actions, which are important but nonetheless will not actually solve the problem, what can a curator do about a leaky roof?
At first glance it would seem a little hopeless. I cannot fix the roof myself and the museum needs to raise the $115,000, over and above our annual budget, for the new roof. But as Milne’s story suggests, there are in fact some things I can do to help and one of these things is, like Piglet, taking up my pen and letting people know the museum needs their help. It’s not a pleasant thing to show people that the museum’s main roof is leaking, but after all, who will help if they don’t know there is a need? As a museum, we are also fundraising and writing grant applications for this project, but the simple truth is that we can’t fix the problem on our own: we need our community.
So, back to Piglet. As the bottle disappears in the floodwaters, the story continues: “‘So now,’ [Piglet] thought, ‘somebody else will have to do something, and I hope they will do it soon, because if they don’t I shall have to swim, which I can’t, so I hope they do it soon.’ And then he gave a very long sigh and said, ‘I wish Pooh were here. It’s so much more friendly with two.’”
Like Piglet, MHV cannot solve the issue of a leaking roof entirely on its own. It is uncomfortable to be in a position where you need help but the wonderful thing about being in this situation is that you get to experience the support of the people around you who not only step in, but also seem to do so with joy and gratefulness for the opportunity to show their support. This is true for individuals as well as organizations and it has been so encouraging to hear of our community stepping in to donate to the roof replacement project and to buy tickets to our Russländer Tribute Fundraising Banquet on May 25 at 4pm, which is to raise funds for a new roof. We are very excited to unveil our new exhibit, “The Russländer,” and to host our guests for an evening of remembering the historic migration of over 24,000 Mennonites who fled the Soviet Union for Canada in the 1920s. If you can’t make it to the fundraiser, please consider donating, over and above your usual support for MHV, to the Village Centre’s new roof. You can buy your tickets for the fundraiser or donate online at mhv.ca, over the phone (204-326-9661), or in person.
MHV has a leaking roof, but this unfortunate situation also means we have front row seats to watch our community in action. We at MHV are sincerely grateful and encouraged by this support, for as Piglet so wisely noted, it is so much more friendly with two!
Calendar of Events
May 25, Russländer Tribute Fundraiser Banquet – 4pm (RSVP by phone or mhv.ca)
June 8, Tractor Trek – 8am to 8pm
June 14-16, Summer in the City – Main Street, Steinbach