Village News

Museum as Public Monastery – A Series on the Roles of Museums

  • Gary Dyck, Blog Coordinator
  • Executive Director, MHV

In June my family enjoyed a beautiful evening of ‘Shakespeare in the Ruins’ at St. Norbert’s former Trappist Monastery. A group of us moved from spot to spot to see the actors play out their story. Wouldn’t it be great to tell a roving Mennonite story at the Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) moving from the Housebarn to the school and then to the windmill? On the grounds of the Trappist Monastery I read about how they enjoyed their life of work and contemplation. Their work, play and contemplation brought them deep peace. No wonder these unique institutions have lasted for centuries.

As I get to know the regular volunteers at MHV it has become clear that they see their work here as a vocation and a calling. It is as if MHV is their personal monastery. They enjoy working on our peaceful grounds, interacting with the community that is here and having the opportunity to contemplate where their lives fit in the continuum of history.

For example, the ‘coffee shop crew’ that came together to restore our World War II sawmill told me how that project gave them meaningful playful work. I can imagine a monk in the garden saying the same thing about his own life. As they restored the sawmill, I think some of their own lives received restoration too. Volunteering at a museum should be about meaningful playful work.

For the guests that come it can also serve as their public monastery. There are stories of faith here that they can learn from without being preached at. There is a simpler way of life they can experience, that can help them simplify their own busy modern lives. The world would be a much much better place if we would take more time for prayer and contemplation.

Seeing museum as public monastery can reduce the impulsiveness that society pushes. Impulse buying, eating and living are not conducive to peace. People who come to MHV have the opportunity right within city limits to feel like they are in a different world. To see their own world from a different perspective and meditate on a ‘new’ idea that could make a difference for their future. May we all have meaningful playful work in our lives.

For some it is quilting! Let us know if you are interested in learning how to quilt. On Friday November 1st and Saturday November 2nd the Threads of Time quilters and MHV Auxiliary will be hosting a quilt show at MHV. Admission is $5 and includes coffee. The Auxiliary will be serving a light lunch as well as muffins and snacks during the day for you to purchase. Come enjoy the beautiful works, enjoy food and good fellowship! The show opens at 10 am both days.