Begun in 1958, the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society operates a museum–supported by library, archival, publications, and educational programs–with a focus on interpretation of Mennonite and Amish life in southeastern Pennsylvania since 1710. Its collections represent the historical background, religious thought and expression, culture, and family history of Mennonite related groups. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
While artifacts have been collected in the areas of wood, metal, ceramics, glass, basketry, textiles, and paper items, formal exhibits did not occur until 1993. The earliest included the following:
Menno Simons: Image, Art, and Identity
Featured portraits of Menno Simons from seventeenth to nineteenth centuries, illustrative of hunted dissenter, pious saint, learned scholar; principles of his teachings and writings; works of fine art made by and for Dutch Mennonites; varied ways Mennonites in North America and the Netherlands have used Menno’s identity.
A Sense of Place and Time: Growing Up Mennonite
Presented heritage-related art works on family, religious, and cultural roots by Mennonites artist Abner Hershberger, Goshen, Indiana; explored the boundaries between Mennonite communal life and the secular world; artist attempted to remain honest to a personal aesthetic, pay homage to a nurturing community, and explore a visual arena that was both symbolic and spiritual.
The Gift of Hope
Celebrated through objects, stories, and photographs the ministry of Mennonite Central Committee, worldwide relief and service organization that commemorated its seventy-fifth anniversary.
Mirror of the Martyrs
Recalled the drama of people obedient to Crown and Church, torturing and killing people who claimed a higher obedience to Jesus Christ; based on Martyrs Mirror images from engravings of sixteenth-century Anabaptism. Is it practical to love one’s enemies? Why did good people resist authority? Why do the powerful fear the weak? What beliefs are worth dying for?
In 2005 a long-term exhibit of mostly Society-owned artifacts opened: Decorated and Plain: An Amish and Mennonite Sampler, an overview of three centuries of Amish and Mennonite life. With minor changes, this exhibit is currently on display and will be supplemented later this year by several other fine collections.
The Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society also collaborates with the 1719 Hans Herr House and Museum to produce Lancaster Roots, a cultural event series. These range from Annual Music Night to the Bookworm Frolic, from Music in the Orchard to Films in the Field. There are Pennsylvania German folk art classes, Pennsylvania German dialect classes, and field trips exploring facets of local history. For more information about upcoming Lancaster Roots events, visit lancasterroots.org.