Mennonite Clocks

The Mennonite Clock Virtual Collection

The Kroeger Clocks Heritage Foundation is developing an online resource which, for the first time, will make accessible to the public the historical and current stories of community, meaning, and tangible heritage. The site will act as a resource, and as a focal point for crowd-sourced information and conversation about a truly transnational heritage.

For centuries, European craftspeople focused their talents and energies towards creating timepieces that bring beauty and structure into homes and communities. Timepieces also carry emotional meaning. This holds true for Mennonite clocks, which represent a rare and preserved aspect of Mennonite material heritage. Today, these clocks serve as cultural touchstones, family heirlooms, and witnesses to the social and political ruptures experienced by their makers and owners.

Our research interests and activities encompass artifacts, written histories, and oral histories about clock makers and caretakers from the mid-eighteenth century to today. Mennonite communities are rooted in the Netherlands during the time of the Northern European Protestant Reformation. Named after the sixteenth century priest Menno Simons (1496-1561), the early religious movement spread to regions of what are now Switzerland, Germany, The Netherlands, and Belgium. Our story of Mennonite clockmakers begins with Mennonite migration into the region of Gdansk, Poland, and continues to Imperial Russia (in regions that are now Ukraine). Today, the story of Mennonite clocks now extends into a contemporary, global story; historical circumstances meant that people of Mennonite heritage now live Europe from Germany to as far east as Siberia, and in North, Central, and South America). Their clocks and clock stories have followed them through time and place.

To date very little research exists on Mennonite clocks and their importance to community identity and historical memory. In 2012, the Late Arthur Kroeger published Kroeger Clocks, a book which built on the small existing body of literature. Kroeger’s research provided an important step towards bringing into the public eye the stories of what as-of-yet known surviving clocks (of the estimated over 16 000 that were made by the Kroeger family of makers). His extensive travel, documentation, and restoration work resulted in the verification and detailed documentation of at least 250 clocks currently in private collections and museums in Poland, Germany, Russia, Ukraine, Canada, Mexico, Belize, and Paraguay. Some of this research took place in regions now unsafe to access due to ongoing armed conflict, for example in regions of southern Ukraine. There is reason to believe that many more clocks survive than have been documented, and many more stories of hardship and strength that remain undocumented and inaccessible.

The Foundation has three aims. The first is to continue the essential work of locating and photographing (to museum standard) Mennonite clocks around the world. The second is compiling and cataloguing detailed information of each artifact, thereby creating documentation for future reference. The third aim is to collect user-contributed stories from the global community of clock owners and caretakers, and make this information accessible through a web site designed and intended for use by a global public. Our intended users are clock owners or their extended families, clock enthusiasts, scholars, horologists, and all people interested in the compelling stories revealed by historical artifacts. By acting as a shared point of conversation and information retrieval, the website fulfills a vital (and thus far unaddressed) community need for information and understanding about these historical objects. By not anchoring a physical collection in one location, this virtual collection addresses the nature of its transnational community. It is intended to be a database and archival collection and to constitute a forum in which information and knowledge on Mennonite clocks and their craft will be collected, disseminated and enhanced, and in turn provide a vital resource on historical Mennonite clocks and their roots in European history.

The web site is intended to launch September 2017.

Our project team consists of Roland Sawatzky, PhD (Curator of History, the Manitoba Museum, Winnipeg, Canada); Kathleen Wiens, PhD (Exhibition Developer, Canadian Museum of Human Rights, Winnipeg, Canada); Alexandra Kroeger (Assistant Curator, Mennonite Heritage Village, Steinbach, Canada); Anikó Szabó (Art Director); and Dr. H. Elizabeth Kroeger, LL.M. (Executrix of the Estate of the Late Arthur Kroeger). Add Carolyn from the Museum?

Goals

  • Use for EU funding
  • Editor to review before publishing
  • Roland needs to look through and add academic language
  • Alex to review
  • Kate to sign off
  • Post on current site as a Read More…
  • Kate and Aniko to re-jig current site to match