Each year, The Mennonite Story in St. Jacobs welcomes visitors from more than 70 countries around the world.
The museum walks guests through Mennonite history via multimedia presentations featuring informative photographs, videos, artifacts and displays.
Now, thanks to a donation by the estate of Eli Martin, the exhibit can be experienced in seven languages (English, German, Dutch, Mandarin, Arabic, French and Spanish) through the use of audio guides.
“There is not a day that goes by where the guides aren’t being used,” manager Del Gingrich said. “The guests’ faces just light up when they are able to listen in their own language. It really has opened up the experience for people.”
When Eli Martin passed away in 2012 at the age of 107, his family wanted to do something special with their inheritance.
Longtime friends with Gingrich, the Martin family decided a donation to the Mennonite Story would have a lasting impact on the greater Mennonite community.
And Gingrich took there decision to heart.
“We wanted to do something with the funds that would be of the most benefit to our visitors,” he explained. “Historically we have 70-80 countries represented by visitors here and I noticed that it would frustrate some people if they weren’t able to understand English.”
Now, the lessons imparted at the museum, notably, the importance of community, can reach a wider audience.
And that really fits with the person Eli Martin was, Gingrich said.
“He had been at Wallenstein General Store at one time, and then he and his wife had a bookstore in Elmira, so he enjoyed talking with the public. I always found him to be a gentle man and an open man to other people’s ideas, and that’s what this is all about, an openness; we aren’t preaching to anybody, we are just saying that this is our story and asking people to reflect on their own backgrounds.”