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Friday, June 14, 2024
Mennonite contribution to Niagara to be uncovered in museum doc project
The former Niagara Canning Company, established in 1940 by Peter Wall, is one example of the Mennonite community's contribution to the growth of Niagara's agriculture industry. NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE MUSEUM PHOTO

The Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum is getting a boost from the federal government’s library and archives group to work on a project uncovering the details of the Mennonite community’s settlement in Niagara.

Library and Archives Canada will fund the museum’s new project, in which it will be gathering, preserving and sharing a collection of oral histories from six Mennonite families as a documentation of how Mennonite immigrants displaced by war survived and helped create the agricultural landscape of Virgil.

This is part of the federal government’s Documentary Heritage Communities Program, which aims to provide $1.5 million in funding each year to local organization to support their work in keeping and preserving records and publications that reflect Canada’s history.

The museum hasn’t shared how much funding it will receive for the Mennonites of Niagara project, but says it will be made into an oral history website available by the end of this year and will encompass more than 100 oral history interviews conducted over the past 12 years and complementary audio-visual materials, such as diaries, maps, photographs, music and family memorabilia.

Members of the Mennonite community have come to settle in Canada during a handful of key waves of migration, including the 1870s, the 1920s and after the Second World War.

The project will document the arrival of these six families in Niagara, their experiences leaving a war-ravaged Europe, the displaced persons camps, prison-of-war camps and the development of their new community in Virgil.

“They brought with them their survival skills, their knowledge of the land, their faith, and their sense of community,” said Sarah Kaufman, the museum’s managing director, in a media release. “The voices of these families need to be heard, recorded, and preserved.”

Alongside the digital exhibition, which will be available at memoriesofniagara.wordpress.com, the museum’s work will be incorporated into a new, permanent exhibition at the physical museum.

Anyone interested in more information, or in contributing their family’s knowledge and history to the project, can contact the museum at 905-468-3912.

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