Holding their annual general meeting at the new Mennonite Heritage Museum in Abbotsford, B.C., gave the Mennonite Historical Society of Canada (MHSC) the opportunity to see this new facility that tells the faith story of Mennonites in the Fraser Valley and is also the new home of the Mennonite Historical Society of B.C. Representatives from Mennonite historical societies and organizations from across Canada met on Jan. 13–16, 2016.
Among the many reports was a success story about the first 10 months of the Mennonite Archival Imaging Database (MAID). This collaborative project gives the public greater online access to photos held by Mennonite archives and has brought publicity and interest to these collections with 41,000 unique visitors to the MAID website and 160 images purchased in 10 months. A new member of the MAID project is the Mennonite Library and Archives, Fresno.
This year the MHSC Award of Excellence was given to Hugo Friesen of Abbotsford, B.C., and Ted Regehr of Calgary, Alta.
Friesen, a teacher and principal before his retirement, was involved in the early attempts to organize a Mennonite archive in B.C. and became the first archivist for the Mennonite Historical Society of B.C., serving from 1993 to 2005. He coordinated all the activities of the archives in its early years and has continued to work as a volunteer.
Ted Regehr worked at the Public Archives of Canada from 1960 to 1968 after which he taught history at the University of Saskatchewan. He has contributed much to the preservation of Mennonite history in Canada, serving as president of the MHSC in its early years, writing many books and articles including Mennonites in Canada Volume 3, and working with the Mennonite Historical Society of Alberta and its archives and library. Regehr mentioned that it was Frank H. Epp, his pastor when he lived in Ottawa, who got him involved in Mennonite history.
The Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (GAMEO), which began 20 years ago in 1996, continues to grow. Sam Steiner reported that it is difficult to keep the statistics up to date, especially congregational information that needs to be done at the grassroots level.
Among the discussions about future projects was how to do more digitization of books and periodicals. Accessibility and search ability are enhanced in digital form, but it is labour intensive to put them online.
The Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies reported that the Christian Leader magazine has been digitized and is ready to be released on a USB stick.
MHSC is proposing “A People of Diversity” project and has applied for a grant to help celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017. If the grant is approved, there are plans for an oral history project and a conference that would recognize how diverse the Mennonites in Canada have become since 1970.
The MHSC executive for 2016 includes Richard Thiessen as president, Royden Loewen as vice president, Alf Redekopp as secretary, Conrad Stoesz as treasurer and Barb Draper as member-at-large.
—Mennonite Historical Society of Canada release
Photo cutline: Hugo Friesen (left) and Ted Regehr received Awards of Excellence from Lucille Marr, president of the Mennonite Historical Society of Canada, on Jan. 16. In the background is a painting from the “Along the Road to Freedom” exhibit on display at the new Mennonite Heritage Museum in Abbotsford, B.C.
Photo by Richard Thiessen