All posts tagged Museum

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.

Against a blue background, big white block letters read Lift Off. Next to this, in bold, reads, Harbour Grace's aviation story began in the spring of 1919, with the arrival of the Handley Page "Atlantic," considered the largest biplane in the world. More is written under that but it is unclear in the picture.
The start of the exhibit telling the history of 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.

A wooded propeller is over a doorway. The doorway is painted light blue. Looking through the door, the room is painted royal blue and white and large exhibit panels are on the walls. There's a large display case in the centre of the room filled with airplanes. Above the display of models is a larger model aircraft suspended from the celiling
Looking into the new aviation room

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.

A woman in a blue dress and black sweater stands in a corner next to two groups of exhibit panels. Next to her, very clearly, is a picture of Amelia Earhart.
Me standing in front of the panels about women an Canadians in aviation, part of the exhibit that I wrote!

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.

The case with the airplane models and the suspended Atlantic are in the middle of the room. A window is behind the case and a view of the ocean. On either side of the window are more exhibit panels.
Another view of the exhibit.

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.

A case containing an open book is attached to the wall. Above the case is an exhibit panel. The only part legible is 1936.
The Airport Log

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.

Three pictures and a model airplane are in a window, The window looks out on to the street below.
More pictures and models

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.

A view of a grassy airfield in spring. The grass is shades of brown and green and the trees are still barren. Along the left side the highway is just visible and along the right are a couple of outbuildings and a lake in the distanc.
Harbour Grace Airfield. Taken in 2010.

Check out the third Public Archaeology Twitter Conference at #PATC3. Below is a transcript of my contribution.

Public Archaeology Twitter Conference #PATC3


Garden Hill, Newfoundland and Labrador

Aircraft Wreckage, Site Use, and Local Museums

by Dr. Lisa M. Daly, PhD

#PATC3 #PATC #aviation #archaeology

Photo credits: top left: Barnes et al. 1944; bottom left: Lisa M. Daly; right: Shannon K. Green

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

Map from Toporama 2019

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

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

Stephenville Regional Museum of History and Art. Photo by Lisa M. Daly

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

Photo by Lisa M. Daly

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

Photo by Shannon K. Green

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.

Daly, L.M.

2015 Aviation Archaeology of World War II Gander: An Examination of Military and Civilian Life at the Newfoundland Airport. Doctoral thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland: Newfoundland.

Daly, L. and S. Green

2014 Garden Hill: The Crash of a USAAF C-54. Provincial Archaeology Office 2013 Archaeology Review, 12: 22-24.

Gale, Frank

1994 Association Wants 1944 Crash Site Preserved. The Western Star, 21 September 1994, p. 3.

Hurley, Corey

2013 Archaeologist Researching Crash Hill Through Local Responders. The Western Star, 09 August 2013 (online).