Last week, the Conception Bay Museum opened its new aviation exhibit. The previous exhibit was interesting but a little cluttered. Now, the exhibit offers a lot of information in an open and inviting space, and really highlights the aircraft that visited Harbour Grace.
I am on the board for the Conception Bay Museum, and it is a fantastic board. I don’t get to do as much as I’d like due to the drive from St. John’s to Harbour Grace, but when I can, I am proud to be part of the volunteer board.
The new exhibit looks at Harbour Grace’s aviation a little more thematically. Starting with the arrival of the Atlantic during the 1919 air race, to the new airfield, then women and Canadians in aviation, and finally famous Harbour Grace aviators, the exhibit offers big, easy to read panels and pictures.
The highlight of the exhibit, and the first thing you notice are the model airplanes. These were made years ago for the museum, and for the new exhibit some board members took the time to carefully repair them. Suspended above them is a model of the Atlantic made from part of the the airplane.
In the small hallway off the exhibit are a couple more models, and the always impressive Airport Log. When I visited it was opened to Amelia Earhart’s page, which was fitting as it was the anniversary of her flight.
If you’re in Harbour Grace, check out the museum. Summer hours will be starting soon, and check their website for activities and events. Events differ every year, but there have been outdoor concerts, book launches, talks, and community historical walks.
Around Harbour Grace there’s also The Spirit of Harbour Grace and the Amelia Earhart statue, plus the airfield. It’s easy to spend an aviation-filled day in the area.
Slide 2 – Aviation History in Newfoundland and Labrador
Many NL communities have stories of aircraft overhead, famous aviators, missing flights, and plane crashes. Some communities were created or shaped by aviation and the building of aerodromes in the Second World War #PATC3
Slide 3 – The Crash of USAAF 42-107427
USAAF C-54A 42-107427 crashed on the Port-au-Port Peninsula en route to Harmon Field, when sloppy weather blew it off course. 9 or 18 crew died on site, 3 later in hospital. Survivors walked to a nearby town where locals helped them. #PATC3 https://bit.ly/2Sck2ui
Slide 4 – Documentary & Archaeological Record
The site has been disturbed, the archaeological record is fragmented. The accident report is available & is a mix of technical language and witness statements. One newspaper article from 1944 rightfully worried about damage if a highway is built nearby #PATC3
Slide 5 – Public Presentation
At a presentation at the Stephenville #museum, I shared the info I had (arch and report), while the community shared related stories. The @western_star carried an article “archaeologist researching […] through local responders” #PATC3
Slide 6 – Public Engagement
This engagement allowed me to hear the story of the museum’s propeller. It was recovered from the wreck and the tip removed to make spinning wheel spindle. It stayed in the craftman’s yard until the museum opened and a resident offered to collect it #PATC3
Slide 7 – Personal Touches
Witness statements tell how the crash was experienced “there was no confusion among the passengers” “I could hear the trees cracking” “the plane made a jerk like it hit an air pocket or something” “whether I walked through or was thrown though, I don’t know” #PATC3
Slide 8 – Map vs. Aerial Photo
Hand-drawn maps show what the author considered important to relate but do not capture the chaos and confusion seen in aerial site photos that show the actual wreckage. Personal, but at the same time, controlled. #PATC3
Slide 9 – Site Use
Since the crash, besides the propeller, the site was rarely visited. With the construction of a nearby road, the aircraft material has been mostly removed, a sign directs people to the site, a bench, campfires and decoratively arranged ceramics show site use #PATC3
Slide 9 – Multidisciplinary
Combining all these elements gives a more complete story and makes it easier for people to engage and relate to the story, especially family and community members. Information is more accessible, less sterile, more personal. #PATC3
Slide 10 – Bias
This approach helps address bias, even your own. Sharing many elements of the story encourages others to share, and all the information can be critically assessed. Being open to new information encourages others to contribute, especially the public #PATC3
Slide 12 – Newfoundlanders as Storytellers
Newfoundlanders & Labradoreans love to hear & tell stories. Combining the archaeological, documentary, & folkloric elements to create the story of the site makes information accessible to interested parties & encourages others to share their part of the story #PATC3
Site Specific References
Barnes, George E., Barnie B. McEntire, and Robert H. Augustinus
1944 U.S. Army Forces Report of Aircraft Accident: Vicinity Cape St. George, Newfoundland. War Department: Harmon Field, Newfoundland.