Newfoundland and Labrador History Comes Alive at The Rooms

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture
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Where can you go to learn about the history, culture, and art of Newfoundland – on the site of an historic fort and a fire department from long ago? 

Newfoundland and Labrador History Comes Alive at The Rooms

The Rooms!

The Rooms is a multi-purpose cultural extravaganza that includes the Art Gallery of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Provincial Museum of Newfoundland and Labrador.

We loved it.

We loved the glass walls, the soaring space, the boat in the center (!), the friendly people, the sense of adventure and curiosity that vibrated in the air.

Newfoundland and Labrador History Comes Alive at The Rooms

If you go, here’s a short guide to discovering The Rooms (you will have to wander the halls and discover the incredible details for yourself!):

Newfoundland and Labrador History Comes Alive at The Rooms

The View

Let’s get this out of the way first, because you know you can’t get enough of looking at this city. Head to the 2nd floor, next to the archives and the café, to see the view of gorgeous downtown St. John’s and the harbor.

Here’s the view on a rainy, foggy day. 

Yes, it makes you want to curl up on the seating there and write a historical novel, set in St. John's, and probably involving much of what you just saw or will discover here in The Rooms.

The view from The Rooms, toward downtown St. John's and the harbor. Newfoundland and Labrador History Comes Alive at The Rooms

The Art

While we were there, the art gallery had an exhibit by Christopher Pratt that completely changed my idea of space, and lines. (Look at Gaspé Passage, 1981. Silkscreen, 15 1/2" x 30 1/2", in the online gallery: http://www.exhibits.therooms.ca/ic_sites/pratt/splash.htm).

The contemporary art that is featured here is local, interesting, and from extraordinarily talented artists. No photos were allowed, alas.

The History

Where else can you see photos of the Royal St. John’s regatta, the oldest organized sporting event in North America, from 100 years ago, and then compare them to today’s regatta? History comes alive with photos, artifacts, and your own curiosity. 

St John's Regatta, pre-1914. Newfoundland and Labrador History Comes Alive at The Rooms

Royal St. John's Regatta, pre-1914

Royal St John’s regatta, 2015. Newfoundland and Labrador History Comes Alive at The Rooms

Royal St. John’s regatta, 2015

First peoples - clothing and artifacts. Newfoundland and Labrador History Comes Alive at The Rooms

First peoples' clothing and artifacts bring history alive

Newfoundland and Labrador goods! Newfoundland and Labrador History Comes Alive at The Rooms

The Archives

Need to look something up about Newfoundland and Labrador? Go no further. You can find images, film, government archives, manuscripts, sports, ancestry, and more collections here. It’s another treasure trove (yes, this building has treasures around every corner). 

The archives. Newfoundland and Labrador History Comes Alive at The Rooms

Doorway to knowledge...

Nature, Science, and History

To me, this was the best part of The Rooms, and taught me a great deal about Newfoundland and Labrador history. You’ll see aboriginal artifacts and stories; fishing artifacts and stories; how people made a home here; and the evolution of land and sea since the glaciers retreated, 12,000 years ago.

Animals from Newfoundland and Labrador. Newfoundland and Labrador History Comes Alive at The Rooms

Ok - so we don't really want THESE guys coming alive...

Newfoundland and Labrador History Comes Alive at The Rooms

early settlers - tools to survive with! Newfoundland and Labrador History Comes Alive at The Rooms

And, a surprising array of unusual things that I love and rarely see:

A giant squid – check!

Giant Squid! Newfoundland and Labrador History Comes Alive at The Rooms

You get two looks, because he's my cousin...

Giant Squid! Newfoundland and Labrador History Comes Alive at The Rooms

Trilobites – check!

Trilobites! Newfoundland and Labrador History Comes Alive at The Rooms

Ancient sea creature skeletons – check!

Ancient Sea Creatures. Newfoundland and Labrador History Comes Alive at The Rooms

Ship figurehead – check!

Ship figurehead. Newfoundland and Labrador History Comes Alive at The Rooms

Playtime for Kids

Here’s where the fun comes...in the Natural Science part of The Rooms, there are plenty of hands-on activities for kids. Let’s be honest: I played, too, while our teen looked on and rolled her eyes before jumping in to make her own set of snow goggles in August. Yes, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. 

Hands on activities for kids. Newfoundland and Labrador History Comes Alive at The Rooms

Hands on activities for kids. Newfoundland and Labrador History Comes Alive at The Rooms

Hands on activities for kids. Newfoundland and Labrador History Comes Alive at The Rooms

Hands on activities for kids. Newfoundland and Labrador History Comes Alive at The Rooms

There are drawers to be opened like the treasure chests they are, and plenty of history to discover, interactively.

Pull the drawers to discover history. Newfoundland and Labrador History Comes Alive at The Rooms

Ok. Happy to follow directions...

Pull the drawers to discover history. Newfoundland and Labrador History Comes Alive at The Rooms

LOOK at all those drawers of treasure!

 

Tips for visiting The Rooms:

Schedule time to linger here. Everything is so fascinating that you won’t want to pull yourself away.

Save time (and budget) for the gift shop. It’s full of fun, local items. 

Newfoundland Stamp tshirts! wfoundland and Labrador History Comes Alive at The Rooms

Handicap parking is around the side, so go around the back into the rear parking lot, and then just take the ramp up - it's much closer than the regular parking lot. The building is entirely handicap accessible, although I would have loved some push buttons on the doors inside the facility.

There’s a café onsite, for when you get a bit peckish and need to refuel before going and staring at viewing the giant squid again.

Want to get excited before you come to St. John’s? Check out The Rooms’ virtual exhibits.

Strollers and wheelchairs are available for free – check them out at the Information Desk when you enter.

wfoundland and Labrador History Comes Alive at The Rooms

See the boat on the ground floor? Yes. I love this place.

wfoundland and Labrador History Comes Alive at The Rooms

Don't worry, construction season is over now...

Learn more: 
http://www.therooms.ca/

 

 

More Newfoundland articles to entice and inspire:

Top 5 Things to Do in St. John’s, Newfoundland with Kids

The surprising colors of St. John’s, Newfoundland

Best Whale Watching in Newfoundland

Top 10 family friendly restaurants in St. John's

The Best Place to Stay in St. John's, Newfoundland

Spooky Stories on St. John's Haunted Hike

The 411 on St. John's Newfoundland with Kids

All photos courtesy and copyright Wandering Educators

 

 

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