2014 Annual General Meeting
The MHSS 2014 Annual General Meeting seemed to draw a smaller turnout than usual, (40) but it was an effort for those present to come, because of the extremely cold temperatures (ranging from -50s to -62 Celsius, depending on your sources). Nevertheless, it was a positive meeting with good reports, and two workshops with Richard Thiessen.
President, Jake Buhler, welcomed all, and called upon John Reddekopp for devotional and inspirational thoughts.
Reddekopp raised the same question often brought up at these annual meetings, from Joshua 4:20-22; "What do these stones mean?" He found the answer in Psalm 145:4, where one generation is to praise God to the next generation. Then he introduced one 'stone of remembrance' in his possession, his grandfather, Jacob K. Reddekopp's German - English Dictionary, (c) 1906. His ancestors were Reinlander or Old Colony and came to the Hague-Osler Reserve, and his parents eventually settled in the Friesens' house-barn in Blumenheim. He shared a few more stories about his grandfather.
MHSS Business and Reports
Jake Buhler presided over the business meeting and oral reports to go with the printed ones.
Elmer Regier, the treasurer, explained the blue pages in the report, noting that more accuracy was needed in the matter of book sales. The expansion costs for the archives have come in, except for the computers, which are yet to be purchased.
Victoria Neufeldt, out-going editor of the Historian took this opportunity to explain problems with the printer with this last issue just out, but that she had asked for University Press to reprint 250 copies, which were available for members to claim. She said that her work had been very interesting and rewarding.
No Cemetery report was available, as Helen Fast is away on a trip. It was agreed that we want to keep this work in Saskatchewan. Updates to the cemetery lists should still be sent in.
Elmer Neufeld, in charge of memberships and obituary databases, reported on publication sets that are complete, and that updated indices are passed on to Ruth Friesen annually, to be posted on our website, so that anyone may access them.
Current membership of MHSS stands at 335, but 400 copies are printed of the Historian.
Questions were asked about digitizing all those records, and what about the obituaries of people that are never published? Can they be obtained from funeral homes?
Kathy Boldt, Volunteer Coordinator, honoured the volunteers who spend many long hours in the archives, often on the phone, answering questions. She asked the volunteers present to rise, and added that an Appreciation Faspa is planned for later this year. It was Helen Fast's idea to get compact shelving, which has turned out to be a great blessing. Victor Wiebe is missed as the archivist, but he is working at indexing Dick Epp's collection.
A recent donation of value in the Archives, is the Rosenorter Church Book from the Eigenheim church. Kathy would like to see more records from various denominations. While the archives is not a library and cannot lend out books, people are most welcome to come and read in the archives.
Ruth Friesen gave a quick report on the website STATs and added to the written report, that she just had to increase the bandwidth assigned to the site, as the number of visitors was maxing out the previous amount. That's a good sign! There are well over 1000 webpages on the site, and it grows weekly.
Vera Falk reported that book sales have been doing pretty good. The book launches this past year have been quite successful, and boosted sales. Walter Klassen's translation of his great- grandfather's book, has been sponsored by MHSS, and is to be launched on Sunday, March 9.
Dick Braun and Leonard Doell co-chaired this segment. Two Board positions were open. The encumbents were asked to stand; Susan Braun and Elizabeth Guenther. Both had agreed to let their names stand for re-election. It is a three year term as a Board member. There were no new nominations from the floor, so with a single motion the two Board members were re-elected.
GAMEO - by Richard Thiessen
After a coffee break, all present, and others who had arrived, (65 in all) settled down to hear Richard Thiessen, currently a Librarian and Professor at Columbia Bible College in British Columbia, introduce GAMEO. This stands for Global Annabaptist Mennonite Encylopedia Online.
Richard shared the history of GAMEO, which began as a database of information gathered by Marlene Epp. Victor Wiebe was in from the ground level. Richard joined a little later. It grew to include Harold Press, then all Mennonite churches and organizations, so now it is quite international, and has been around for 17-18 years. It is all accessible to the public online.
Tour of GAMEO Online
Using a laptop and the large screen, Richard was able to take us on a tour of the site, and show how to search for various kinds of information on it. In some ways it is similar to Wikipedia, but in December 2013, they switched to a new kind of software, which makes it more secure, but means that the Editorial Committee has to post any updates. Anyone may submit material, but it will be checked before it goes live on the site.
Besides searching for information, Richard demonstrated how to submit corrections and additional information on any particular article. More biographies are needed, and he showed the criteria for the info desired in a biography.
The majority of the articles are in English, but they hope to expand to more languages.
Regional Committees are sought as well. For instance, MHSS people could brainstorm for people from our area to be included and see that their biographies are written and submitted. Those from this area are more able to discern if information from and about this area and our history are accurate, or know with whom to check the facts, and to guard against an unfair bias. Richard urged MHSS to seriously consider setting up such a Regional Committee.
In the inter-active Q&A which followed, Jake Buhler was able to name several stories that needed to be told and he could name who would be best qualified in the room to write those stories.
Importance of an Archives
After a catered lunch with hearty soups and sandwiches, Richard Thiessen make his second Presentation on the importance and use of archives. He began with some clear definitions. Archives - a collection of historical records, primary documents, church reports, diaries, letters, passenger lists, church minutes, newspapers, usually unpublished and unique materials, which now includes emails. Secondary Sources - include books, journals, magazines, and art galleries. An archives is not a library, and not a museum.
An Archives should have a Collection Development Policy. Our MHSS Development Policy is stated on our website. Richard explained what that should include.
Then he went on to develop Archival Standards, Rules for Archival Description (RAD) - also known as finding aides, or "fonds." There are six levels. From there he went to the arrangement for archives, such as vault, library, journals, periodicals, genealogies, published and unpublished works, school yearbooks, table areas, computers, microfilm viewing areas, etc.
The GRANDMA database has been around for 15-20 years, and is available on CD or online, to any individuals. However, it is also available at Mennonite archives.
An open discussion talked about the importance of volunteers to the running of an archives, and brainstorming for ways to get more people involved. Also, about keeping original data, and not throwing it out just because the information is available online.
Leonard Doell pointed out that this past year was the 40th anniversary for MHSS, but we forgot to celebrate or mark it.
Dick Braun acted as tour-guide for any and all who wished to visit our new, state-of-the-art Archives. A number picked up coffee and cookies, and moved downstairs for this tour. It was good to see tremendous progress since the last Annual Meeting tour.
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Mennonite Historical Society of Saskatchewan (MHSS)
Room 900 - 110 La Ronge Road, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, S7K 7H8
Archive Hours: Monday: 1:30 - 4:00 p.m. Wednesday: 1:30 - 4:00 p.m. & 7:00 - 9:00 p.m.