The Mennonite Heritage Village travelling exhibit will make its first stop in its two-year journey at the Mennonite Heritage Centre Gallery today!
Leaving Canada: The Mennonite Migration to Mexico tells the history of the mass movement of an entire culture in the early 20th century.
On March 1, 1922, a large group of Old Colony Mennonites gathered at the railway station in Plum Coulee, Manitoba, awaiting a train to take them to Cuauhtémoc, a small town in northern Mexico. Leaving Canada tells the story of these Mennonites and the nearly eight thousand others who left Canada in the 1920s to start new lives in Mexico and Paraguay.
"The travelling exhibit is a smaller version of what MHV put on last year," says the senior curator at MHV, Andrea Klassen. "So, we put the exhibit up on the 100th anniversary last year. That was our main exhibit, and then once that exhibit was done we converted it into a smaller version suitable for travel."
The travelling exhibit consists of four large wooden crates that have each artifact displayed for each of the themes: the introduction, the move, and the last legacy. It also includes interpretive pop-up banners and wall panels.
Klassen hopes this exhibit will inspire people to ask questions about Mennonite history, why it matters and how it relates to the modern era.
"The migration to Mexico started off because Mennonites were not allowed to retain their private schools in Canada, in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. And so, the question comes, what was so important about private schools that it impelled 8000 people to leave Canada?
Klassen says that the public school mandate was not just for Mennonites, it was directed to all cultures that possessed private education, and it was against the non-British population. It brought forth a topic of conversation that is still had today, actions the government has taken that are against individual freedom.
It was the threat of restriction against their own language, religious beliefs and culture that brought on the largest mass migration out of Canada since Confederation.
Leaving Canada: The Mennonite Migration to Mexico will be at the MHC Gallery starting today at 7:30 pm until April 29, then it will make its way across the prairies for the next two years. Klassen says the travelling exhibit won't return until the end of summer 2024.
The small design of the exhibit is not some random feat, it was a deliberate design so that smaller museums, provincial Mennonite historical societies, libraries, archives and other places with Mennonite attachment could showcase an important part of the culture's history.
Visit the Mennonite Heritage Village website for more information.
The MHC Gallery is also putting a callout for exhibits during their 2024 season. For anyone that wants to showcase their exhibit, read the submission requirements and apply here, before April 1.