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Volunteer will share journey of history he took through photos

MLA photo of Standingelk (Vohokass), Rodolphe Petter and Bertha Kinsinger Petter at Lame Deer, Montana

Weldon Schloneger will give a talk titled “My Encounters with the Photos of Rodolphe Petter” as part of an occasional series sponsored by the Friends of the MLA, Sept. 25 at 7 p.m. in the Kauffman Museum auditorium.

When Schloneger walked into Bethel College’s Mennonite Library and Archives to inquire about a volunteer position, he didn’t guess the journey he was about to embark on.

Schloneger, a retired Mennonite pastor, lives in North Newton. He doesn’t remember if he or his wife, Florence, had the idea to see if the MLA had any particular volunteer needs.

“I wanted to volunteer somewhere,” Schloneger said, “so I walked into the MLA one day and asked [archivist] John Thiesen if he had a job he needed done. I told him I was comfortable with computers and I was a photographer, and he said, ‘Yes, there is.’”

This was more than a year ago. Schloneger recently finished a project in which he digitized 3,000-plus old negatives and prints donated to the MLA by descendants of Rodolphe Petter, who spent more than 50 years as a missionary to the Northern Cheyenne people in Oklahoma and eastern Montana in the first half of the 20th century.

His Sept. 25 program is free and open to the public.

“I started out working in a small room in the MLA and it took me a couple of weeks to realize I was working at Rodolphe Petter’s desk,” Schloneger said.

He scanned all the photos, including the backs when there was writing on them, to make around 4,300 total images. He also spent time on his own computer at home using PhotoShop® to get the most out of the images, he said.

All of them are now accessible on the MLA’s website, at mlabethelks.org/petter-photos/, or linked through the Mennonite Library and Archives Facebook page.

“When I began, I didn’t know any of these people [in the photos] or what they had done,” Schloneger said. He began to get interested in Mennonite mission work to the Cheyenne, so during that year he also read “everything I could find that had been written about it.”

He even made a trip to Oklahoma to see where the mission had been, and through Google found and contacted a Petter granddaughter, just to learn more. He and Florence drove through Lame Deer, Montana, on a trip to Alberta.

Recently, Thiesen gave him another, related project – scanning the enormous photo album of Anna Linscheid. G.A. and Anna Linscheid, like Petter and his first wife Marie and second wife Bertha, were also early mission workers with the Northern Cheyenne.

“The photos in Anna’s album are from the same time period [as the Petter photos],” Schloneger said. “They’re different photos, in the same setting. I’ll be talking a bit about that in my presentation, too.”

The Mennonite Library and Archives (MLA) at Bethel College sponsors these periodic presentations on topics related to Mennonite history and thought.

For more information on the Friends of the MLA or the Sept. 25 program, call 316-284-5360 or e-mail jthiesen@bethelks.edu.

Kauffman Museum is located at the corner of Main and 27th Streets in North Newton. For more information, see the Kauffman Museum Facebook page or call 316-283-1612.

Bethel College is the only Kansas private college listed in the Washington Monthly National Universities-Liberal Arts section and the National Liberal Arts College category of U.S. News & World Report, both for 2018-19. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu.

Bethel College does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, creed, age, gender, sexual orientation, parental or marital status, gender identity, gender expression, medical or genetic information, ethnic or national origins, citizenship status, veteran or military status or disability. E-mail questions to TitleIXCoordinator@bethelks.edu.

About Bethel

As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.