Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Heritage Underground - A History of Root Cellars in Newfoundland and Labrador

Spence root cellar, Brigus.
Heritage NL, 2011.

In their travels, visitors to Newfoundland and Labrador might be surprised to see numerous little doorways peeking out of hillsides across the province. These are our root cellars. While they are not unique to this province, they are a part of our history and are a familiar sight in many communities.

Today, a selection of stories about the history, archaeology and folklore of root cellars go online as part of Heritage Underground - A History of Root Cellars in Newfoundland and Labrador. This exhibition was developed by Heritage NL, with an investment from Digital Museums Canada.

Root cellars are insulated structures built above ground, or wholly or partly buried in the ground. They are used to preserve vegetables and protect them from frost and rot. Root cellars were a crucial part of a subsistence lifestyle, giving fishing families the ability to preserve the food they grew, in order to survive the long winters along the rugged coastlines of the province.

Little Harbour root cellar.
Photographed by Otto Samsome, 2008.

“This website is a great opportunity to share stories about this traditional food storage method,” says Heritage NL Executive Director Dale Jarvis. “Some of the history may be well known, while some of the subterranean folklore about boo-darbies, babies, and silver shovels might be specific to certain communities or regions. All of the information, including five common root cellar styles, is available in both English and French.”

This online project was developed with the support of the Digital Museums Canada investment program. Digital Museums Canada is managed by the Canadian Museum of History, with the financial support of the Government of Canada. This investment program helps build digital capacity in Canadian museums and heritage organizations and gives Canadians unique access to diverse stories and experiences.

Come with us, and explore the fascinating underground heritage of Newfoundland and Labrador’s root cellars.

Heritage Underground - A History of Root Cellars in Newfoundland and Labrador

Patrimoine souterrain - Petite histoire des caves à légumes à Terre-Neuve-et-Labrador

For more information or photos, contact:
Terra Barrett
Heritage NL
709-739-1892 x2

Change Islands root cellar.
Heritage NL, 2021.

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