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Mennonite photograph database shortlisted for national award

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MAID reaches back in time and around the world to tell Mennonite stories through 80,000 photographs. Pictured here, Mennonite Central Committee volunteers run a mobile canteen in Birmingham, England, 1941. Credit: Mennonite Archives of Ontario

A website showcasing 80,000 photographs of Mennonite life was shortlisted for the Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Community Programming. Mennonite Archival Image Database (MAID) is a partnership of eight Mennonite archives.

The award celebrates “small, volunteer-led community organizations in the creation of innovative programming that commemorates unique aspects of [Canadian] heritage. “

The judges identified MAID as “a very special project since it, in many ways, is helping to bring together a diasporic community” by sharing “heritage across vast distances, but also through the cooperation of archival professionals invested in the community.”

“We feel honoured to be considered for an award in excellence in community programming” says site administrator Laureen Harder-Gissing, “since MAID is all about sharing our archival treasures with communities worldwide.”

MAID originated as a project of the Mennonite Historical Society of Canada. With software development provided by Peaceworks Technology Solutions, the site went live at https://archives.mhsc.ca in 2015, and acquired its first cross-border partner in 2016.

“By pooling our financial, organizational, and human capital, we found the resources to make MAID a reality” says Conrad Stoesz, chair of the MAID management group. “The partners include professional and volunteer-run archives. We are inspiring each other to improve the quality of our archival services and build stronger working relationships.”

Volunteers and staff at the eight partner archives are busy scanning and uploading new photos daily, as well as providing verifiable information about each image. As MAID’s reach grows, site visitors reach back to contribute facts and stories, order photographs online and express their thanks.

“The photo you sent me shows real people from the past with real struggles,” wrote a visitor in Tasmania, “MAID is a truly wonderful project.”

—Mennonite Archival Image Database release

Quotes from letters of reference on behalf of MAID to the Award committee:

 “This innovative database tells stories about our past in unique and innovative ways.” —Hon. Senator V. Peter Harder

 “The development of the e-commerce module demonstrates the kind of fresh thinking that is the hallmark of this project.” —Greg Bak, University of Manitoba

 “[MAID’s photos] not only helped us to interpret history…but they also suggested and opened new research paths.” —Andrea Dyck, Mennonite Village Museum

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