News and events

April 7, 2020: Mennonite Archival Database Gets Boost with Five New Partners

The online Mennonite Archival Information Database (MAID) is adding five new institutional partners to the existing nine.  The newly expanded database features thousands of historic photos and a quickly expanding number of entries describing one-of-a-kind letters, diaries, meeting minutes, travel documents, biographies, audio and video recordings, and more – all accessible to the public.

The new members are Mennonite Central Committee (Canada (Winnipeg, MB) and USA (Akron, PA)), Mennonite Church USA Archives (Elkhart, IN), Bethel College Mennonite Library and Archives (North Newton, KS), Pacific Northwest Mennonite Historical Society (Hubbard, OR), and Goshen College Archives (Goshen, IN).  The four American archival collections were featured in the “Mennonite Archival Commons” online project but are migrating their data to MAID.

Jason Kauffman of Mennonite Church USA archives in Elkhart, IN, said, MAID provides an opportunity to join forces with an established consortium with broad institutional support and a common goal of making information and content from our collections more accessible to the public.”

Chantel Fehr and Frank Peachy of Mennonite Central Committee agrees. “We are thrilled to work together with other institutions that are committed to preserving the records that document Mennonite history through the Mennonite Archival Information Database.”

The online archive was founded by Canadian partners in 2015 as a photographic database to help archival institutions manage their collections and provide public access to historic material.  “When MAID was launched, we dreamed about its potential to include more Mennonite partners.  We are thrilled that other archives have also seen this and look forward to collaborating with them to provide an enhanced online service to anyone wanting to explore Mennonite history,” says MAID site administrator Laureen Harder-Gissing of the Mennonite Archives of Ontario.

With the power of a central database that can link records in multiple repositories together, researchers will benefit from new leads and resources.   In a world of shrinking institutional budgets, a cooperative approach that pools financial and human resources is vital.  The database is not only for researchers but as John Thiesen of Bethel College hopes “it might contribute to a closer interaction among the North American Mennonite archives and historical libraries.”  Kauffman is appreciative of the development of MAID.  “I hope that we can build on the amazing work that MAID has already accomplished and eventually share more content from our collections online, including audio records, video, and documents.” Visitors to the site can expect to see MAID's content expand over the next few months.

As MAID has grown to contain more than photographs, the name is changing from "Mennonite Archival Image Database" to "Mennonite Archival Information Database."

November 20, 2018: About language for Indigenous peoples in MAID

In the spirit of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s calls to action, MAID has begun a process of reviewing and revising language in MAID describing Indigenous peoples. Our process has relied significantly on work done by the Association of Manitoba Archives MAIN-LCSH Working Group (referred to below as AMA-MAIN). This group, in consultation with Indigenous communities, reviewed terms pertaining to Manitoba’s Indigenous peoples for cultural sensitivity, accuracy, and standardization. Where appropriate, MAID has adopted these terms directly. For example, most subject headings that include the word “Indian(s)” have been replaced with “Indigenous.” Exceptions exist and may include, for example, names of historical organizations containing the word “Indian.”

MAID’s holdings reach well beyond Manitoba. Where possible, non-Manitoba subject headings were revised in the style of the AMA-MAIN terms and in accordance with Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) structures. Indigenous subject headings that come directly from AMA-MAIN or are modified in that style are tagged with the source note “AMA-MAIN Subject Headings 2017.” Indigenous subject headings drawn from the Library of Congress are tagged with the source note “LCSH.”

While the MAID Management Group has not yet consulted directly with Indigenous peoples, efforts have been made to seek out standardized autonymns that are also easily searchable. For example, MAID descriptions referred to a Paraguayan Indigenous group as both "Lengua" and "Enlhet." The Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia and Global Mennonite History Series were consulted. In this case, a recent article in GAMEO and the Global History’s Latin American volume, Mission and Migration, agreed on the name “Enlhet” over “Lengua.” A “use for” entry was created for the term Lengua. “Use for” terms are searchable in MAID’s subject heading, place and name authority lists, and direct the searcher to the preferred term. Other sources, such as official websites and scholarly works by Indigenous peoples, were also consulted as available.

In the course of revisions, efforts were made to identify Indigenous groups as accurately and specifically as possible. For example, a photograph with the broad subject heading “Indigenous peoples – Canada”  in which the Indigenous peoples are clearly Grand River Haudenosaunee (Six Nations) was changed to the more specific heading.

The subject heading review and revision concludes the first phase of the process. Other fields in the descriptive record, primarily title and “scope and content” notes, still need to be reviewed by each partner archives. Our intent is to revise  archival descriptions; text within the descriptions that quote original sources directly will not be changed. For example,

This is a photograph of seven Indian children. Inscribed on back of photo:  “Indian children, 1968.”

Would be revised to read:
This is a photograph of seven Indigenous [or specific group, if known] children. Inscribed on back of photo “Indian children, 1968.”

MAID recognizes that reconciliation does not happen merely by changing our words. Decolonizing our history, minds and hearts is an ongoing process. We undertake this process in humility and gratitude to our Indigenous neighbours, past and present. We welcome feedback and suggestions for improving the language we use to describe First Nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples.

November 16, 2016:  MAID shortlisted for the Governor General's History Award for Excellence in Community Programming

MAID was shortlisted for the 2016 Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Community Programming.The award celebrates “small, volunteer-led community organizations in the creation of innovative programming that commemorates unique aspects of [Canadian] heritage. “ The judges identified MAID as “a very special project since it, in many ways, is helping to bring together a diasporic community” by sharing “heritage across vast distances, but also through the cooperation of archival professionals invested in the community.”

“We feel honoured to be considered for an award in excellence in community programming” says site administrator Laureen Harder-Gissing, “since MAID is all about sharing Mennonite archival treasures with communities worldwide.”

 “By pooling our financial, organizational, and human capital, we found the resources to make MAID a reality” says Conrad Stoesz, chair of the MAID management group.  “The partners include professional and volunteer-run archives. We are inspiring each other to improve the quality of our archival services and build stronger working relationships.”

Volunteers and staff at the eight partner archives are busy scanning and uploading new photos daily, as well as providing verifiable information about each image. As MAID’s reach grows, site visitors reach back to contribute facts and stories, order photographs online, and express their thanks. “The photo you sent me shows real people from the past with real struggles,” wrote a visitor in Tasmania, “MAID is a truly wonderful project.”

June 13, 2016: MAID wins Manitoba Day award

The Mennonite involvement in collecting, preserving, and telling stories about the past is strong in Manitoba.  Of eleven awards, four were given to Mennonites or Mennonite related projects at the Association for Manitoba Archives’ annual Manitoba Day Awards on May 19, 2016.  Manitoba’s new Minister of Sport, Culture and Heritage, The Honourable Rochelle Squires, was in attendance and kicked off the ceremonies.  She noted the important role that archives play in maintaining community memory around the province. Conard Stoesz of the Mennonite Heritage Centre and Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies accepted the award on behalf of MAID. The AMA's Manitoba Day awards events was attended by a modest but enthusiastic crowd at the University of Winnipeg.

January 19, 2016: MAID welcomes new partner Mennonite Library & Archives (Fresno Pacific University)

On the eve of our first anniversary, the Mennonite Archival Image Database (MAID) welcomes the Mennonite Library & Archives at Fresno Pacific University (ML&A)  as our newest archival partner. ML&A is the eighth MAID partner and the first outside Canada, which enhances MAID's vision of being a source for "the discovery of photographs of Mennnonite life from around the world." MAID's eight partners have now collectively uploaded over 81,000 photographic descriptions into our Internet-accessible database (; nearly 17,000 of these have scanned images attached.
ML&A has begun entering photographs into MAID from its rich collections, which consists of tens of thousands of photographs. Highlights include the Henry J. Wiens photographs of Mennonite Brethren church buildings, photographs of Mennonite Brethren congregational life on the west coast of the United States, the Fresno Pacific University photograph collection, and a massive collection of Mennonite Brethren mission photographs from around the world. Kevin Enns-Rempel (library director) and Hannah Keeney (archivist) are coordinating photograph entries from Fresno, which involes selecting images and providing the descriptions that will make them searchable on the Internet.  "These photographs have been available in the archives for many years, but only to those researchers able to visit the archives," says Enns-Rempel. "MAID will make these photographs visible to the world, and will spur interest in the larger archival collections at Fresno."
The Mennonite Library and Archives is one of four North American archival centers for the Mennonite Brethren church in North America. It is located in the Hiebert Library at Fresno Pacific University. The archives hold records of the Pacific District Conference of the Mennonite Brethren Church, Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary, the General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, Fresno Pacific University, and personal manuscript collections related to the Mennonite Brethren church. In addition to the archival collections, the ML&A also holds an Anabaptist/Mennonite library collection of nearly 17,000 volumes.
The Mennonite Archival Image Database is a project of the Mennonite Historical Society of Canada. It was launched in 2015 by seven original partners: the Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies (Winnipeg), the Mennonite Archives of Ontario, the Mennonite Heritage Centre (Winnipeg), the D. F. Plett Historical Research Foundation, and the Mennonite Historical Societies of Alberta, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan.

July 6, 2015: MAID and Canadian Mennonite create new feature

Readers of Canadian Mennonite can look forward to seeing a historical photograph and accompanying short story in every issue of the magazine. "A Moment from Yesterday" will be a regular feature beginning this month. MAID archivists will select the photos and write the stories, which will feature moments from Mennonite history across Canada. "A Moment from Yesterday" can also be viewed on Canadian Mennonite's website.

March 2, 2015: New online Mennonite photo database "shows the future of digital community archives"

After two years of design and development, the Mennonite Archival Image Database (MAID) goes live for public use today at  “Never before has the public had this kind of access to photos from Mennonite archives,” explains  Jon Isaak of the Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies in Winnipeg.  “MAID opens up a host of new possibilities.”  The new tool helps archives manage their photo collections and provides Internet  access to the photos.

The on-line solution is a project of the Mennonite Historical Society of Canada  and includes Mennonite archival partners in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario.  Costs for the project are shared on a sliding scale.  “We could not have undertaken such a large project on our own,” says Mennonite Heritage Centre, Winnipeg director Korey Dyck.  “By working with other partners we were able to pool our financial and intellectual resources.”

Currently MAID holds over  80,000 descriptions of photos and over 9,000 images.  These number will be expanding, explains Laureen Harder-Gissing of the Mennonite Archives of Ontario.  “The technology provided by MAID is energizing our partner archives to digitize our photo collections.  Having all our photos searchable through one source will be a boon for genealogists, historians, and anyone interested in finding out more about Mennonite and Canadian history. Local communities across Canada will also find their histories represented.”

The project is a collaborative, “made in Canada” approach.  The software is an open source code developed by the B.C. company Artefactual, supported by the International Council of Archives, and known as Access to Memory (AtoM).  This AtoM software has become a popular archival tool across Canada.  PeaceWorks Technology Solutions of Waterloo was contracted to customize the code for MAID. Patrons can search, view and order images for non-commercial uses. “This digital tool creates an important link, tying the day-to-day workings of Mennonite archives across the country together in a way previously not done,” says development team member and former Heritage Centre director, Alf Redekopp.  Cooperation will be ongoing as partners will continue to add, develop, manage, and pay for the database.

 “We are already looking to the future,” says development team leader Conrad Stoesz. “MAID can be expanded to include other partners with Mennonite photo collections, new formats such as textual records or sound recordings, or additional sponsors to help us expand our vision.”

University of Manitoba archives professor Greg Bak is impressed with the project.  “MAID shows the future of digital community archives. By combining their resources, a number of Mennonite organizations have made innovative use of technology to create a platform that allows them to pool their archives and draw together their community, across Canada, in a common, online space.” Bak, the former Senior Digital Archivist at Library and Archives Canada, stated “by using open source code and contributing back to the code base, archives around the world that use AtoM can benefit from the new functionalities created by PeaceWorks for MAID. It is wonderful to see the Canadian Mennonite community working together, embracing digital technologies and contributing to the development of open source technologies.”
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