Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Exploring the Wooden Boat Museum of Newfoundland and Labrador

The rocky shores of Newfoundland and Labrador has created a bond between Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and the sea, as well the fishery that sustained it for centuries. Generations of fishermen relied on the boats right here at home using traditional methods to provide for their families and ensure their survival at sea. These wooden boats were the workhorses of the fishing industry and the designs were often unique from one outport community to another. The transmission of this knowledge has declined in the past half-century, but in Winterton, one organization is working to safeguard this knowledge and pass it on to future generations.

The Wooden Boat Museum of Newfoundland and Labrador. Photo by Katie Crane, 2019.

A small fishing community in Trinity Bay, Winterton has a long tradition of boat building. In the 70s and 80s folklorist David Taylor conducted fieldwork as a graduate student in Folklore at Memorial University in the community, taking extensive photographs and notes on the construction and design of the unique boats built in this community. It was this information that inspired the Winterton Heritage Advisory Board to create what they thought would be a temporary exhibit for Come Home Year in 1997. The display proved to be so popular that it was converted to a permanent exhibit, and eventually expanded to celebrate wooden boats not just in Winterton, but across the province. The Wooden Boat Museum of Newfoundlandand Labrador was established as a provincial museum in 2008 with its headquarters in Winterton. Its mandate is to connect wooden boat builders and wooden boat enthusiasts across the province and to encourage sharing the knowledge and skills associated with traditional wooden boat building.

Three piece mould once owned by boat builder Marcus French. Photo by Wooden Boat Museum of Newfoundland and Labrador, 2018.

Through a mix of on-going exhibits and hands-on workshops with descendants of boat building masters, the Wooden Boat Museum of Newfoundland and Labrador is working to both safeguard and transmit the knowledge and history of wooden boats in Newfoundland and Labrador. They still keep to their roots with a folklorist on staff. Crystal Braye works to document people still making wooden boats today and their knowledge of wooden boat construction, as well as other traditions of boat building across the province. Listen to her talk about what her research includes in this episode of the Living Heritage Podcast.


The Living Heritage Podcast is about people who are engaged in the heritage and culture sector, from museum
professionals and archivists, to tradition bearers and craftspeople - all those who keep history alive at the
community level. The show is a partnership between HeritageNL and CHMR Radio.
Theme music is Rythme Gitan by Latché Swing.

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