New guide to Ontario Mennonite peace history online

January 29, 2014 | Focus On | Number 3
By Laureen Harder-Gissing | Mennonite Archives of Ontario

What was it like to be a conscientious objector during the Second World War? Did Mennonites participate in the War of 1812? Did Mennonite women contribute to First World War relief efforts? Do Mennonites celebrate Remembrance Day?

These are some of the questions asked of the Mennonite Archives of Ontario by genealogists, local historians, school children and academics. The “peace position” has been part of Mennonite doctrine and practice for nearly 500 years. Naturally, there is a great deal of curiosity about how the Mennonite commitment to nonparticipation in war has provided them with unique historical experiences and perspectives.

To encourage this growing interest, the Archives—located at Conrad Grebel University College—has created a peace research guide to its holdings. Since archives are organized by creator—not subject—identifying peace-related sources can be time-consuming. The online guide—
peacearchives—identifies source materials for peace history with a focus on Mennonite responses to military conflicts.

Spanning the years from 1786 to the present, the guide highlights the rich collections in peace history held at the Archives. Listings range from 19th-century military exemption papers and First World War military tribunal records, to taped interviews with Second World War conscientious objectors and efforts by Ontario Mennonites to raise awareness of Central American conflicts in the 1980s.

As the guide is electronic, new listings will continue to be added as peace-related historical documents make their way to the Archives.

Currently, the Mennonite Archives of Ontario is undergoing a large renovation that will make the collection more accessible. However, researchers can use the online guide to locate materials of interest, and then make an appointment at the Archives to view them in person. The new facilities are projected to be open in June 2014.

--Posted Jan. 29, 2014

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