COLUMN: Village News – The Great Mennonite Migration of 2022
For the past five years, as a curator at the Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV), I have heard the rumblings of impending migration. As the vast prospect of 2022 opens before us, migration is now imminent. Of course, Mennonite history is full of movement as people migrate from one country or continent to another, but this migration is different.
MHV has an artifact collection of 16,800 objects related to the history of Mennonites of Russian origin and each of these objects is accompanied by an extensive data set. The Great Mennonite Migration of 2022 is all about all that data, which consists of all the information associated with an object, including who donated it and when; what the object looks like and what is its physical condition; the history of the object and the people who made or owned it; and any physical storage and display locations the object has had throughout its time in the museum. We keep track of all this data (and much more) in a collections management system called “Virtual Collections”.
Virtual collections were introduced at MHV in the early 2000s when the curatorial department moved from paper to digital records. This represented a great improvement in MHV’s ability to record and track the entire collection. Virtual collections have served the museum well, but over time they have become obsolete. Moreover, the software company announced in 2015 that it would no longer update it. These two factors have left the MHV artifact database in a precarious position.
In 2018, the Association of Museums of Manitoba (AMM) launched a major project to create a bespoke, accessible and affordable collections management system for museums in Manitoba who were struggling with this issue. Five Manitoba museums came together in a working group led by the AMM to select the software and adapt it to the project. The result was a new online collections database called “Musetoba”. Currently, the main function of Musetoba is a collection management system for internal use in individual museums. In the future, however, this cooperative database will include a public website that will serve as a portal to the collections held at participating museums.
After several years of research, MHV decided to join Musetoba and signed an expression of interest during the first pandemic containment, in the spring of 2020, and began to prepare the project through large data cleaning campaigns. In the summer of 2021, MHV was officially accepted into Musetoba Phase 2 and work to prepare for the migration of our artifact database began in earnest. That fall, with funding from Young Canada Works’ Careers in Heritage Building program, we were able to hire Kayliegh Penner to work full-time on preparing the virtual collections for migration to Musetoba. Since then, the entire conservation department has prepared for a very big – and very well received! – cash.
This project to migrate data from our collections to a new platform is very important to take care of MHV’s artifacts and we are delighted to announce that the migration should begin in the next few days. Once MHV’s move to Musetoba is complete, we will resume accepting new items into the collection. We are excited about this big leap to Musetoba, both because it represents a major improvement over virtual collections for our internal use, but also for the increased public accessibility it will bring to MHV’s collections at the to come up.
Events to come:
The MHV galleries and the Books & Gifts Village are open Tuesday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Our award-winning Mennonites at War exhibition is also available online. Keep checking our website for upcoming events, including our popular Author Nights.
Free skating on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Our staff and volunteers worked hard to prepare the rink next to our general store in the village. A “trash box” food donation for the food bank is all you need to take advantage of free skating on Saturdays. Bring your friends and family and enjoy a perfect setting to skate!
Winter Carnival, February 19, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Save the date for our annual Winter Carnival! Admission is free and there will be lots of fun activities for all ages. Proof of vaccination will be required.