Monday, December 13, 2010

Archivist-Librarian, Laureen Harder-Gissing watches as a Memo of Understanding regarding the Mennonite Archives of Ontario that are housed at Conrad Grebel University College is signed on December 6. Signing on behalf of Mennonite Historical Society of Ontario is its secretary, Marlene Epp (left), David Martin, Executive Minister of Mennonite Church Eastern Canada, Rick Cober Bauman, Executive Director of Mennonite Central Committee Ontario, and Henry Paetkau,  President of Conrad Grebel University College. On December 2, partner organizations of the Mennonite Archives of Ontario signed a "Memo of Understanding" renewing their commitment to the important role the archives plays in the Mennonite community and endorsing the college’s stewardship of this unique collection.

LLibarian-Archivist, Laureen Harder-Gissing, says:

Archives are about harnessing the potential of the past to enrich our lives and help us discern for the future. This memo is a sign of affirmation as we plan for an expansion that increases our ability to preserve history in all its recorded formats and provides a welcoming environment for researchers.

The Mennonite Archives of Ontario (MAO) originated with a “Mennonite box” of historical documents collected by Lewis J. Burkholder. Housed in the provincial archives for a time, it was returned to Mennonite hands in 1941 and placed in the Golden Rule bookstore in Kitchener. In 1959 this collection was moved to the Rockway Mennonite School and in 1964 the MAO was relocated to the newly completed Conrad Grebel College. Soon after, the Mennonite Historical Society of Ontario was founded with a goal of preserving Mennonite historical materials in the Archives. Subsequent agreements with Mennonite Central Committee Ontario and the Mennonite Conference of Ontario (now MCEC) established MAO as the depository for their records and encouraged congregations to avail themselves of the MAO’s facility and professional services.

In 1976 the archives was moved into the new academic building at Conrad Grebel. This facility has not been upgraded or expanded since, resulting in cramped quarters for the archives’ treasures and restrictions on the number of researchers and programs the archives can accommodate.

In its 2006 Strategic Plan, Conrad Grebel University College identified space needs for the archives and its library as a high priority. The college’s Board of Governors and administration are now investigating construction options to address these needs, as well as others within the academic program. According to the Memo, the partner organizations are

prepared to work with Conrad Grebel University College in support of this capital expansion to meet the needs of the shared archive facility.

By Fred Martin

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