Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Engaging Seniors in Heritage Projects - notes from Heritage NL's Intangible Cultural Heritage office

The current COVID-19 crisis is difficult for seniors on many fronts.  In addition to creating serious health risks, it has further isolated many.  Heritage NL has been working with seniors for a number of years to capture their stories and offer validation of their lives and experiences.  While engaging seniors in a time of social isolation is challenging, telephone conversations and video interviews can serve as a useful way to connect.

As a guiding principle, Newfoundland and Labrador’s provincial Intangible Cultural Heritage strategy recognises that incorporating multiple voices, including those of seniors, is important in all work relating to ICH. ICH is kept alive and is relevant to a culture when it is regularly practised and learned within communities and between generations. In many instances, elders in our communities are the bearers of many of our traditions and customs and have an important role in setting priorities for community-based research and being valuable information sources for documenting traditional knowledge. We strive to celebrate the voices of seniors by keeping them involved in the various levels and types of work we do and by documenting their knowledge in the process.

In 2016, Heritage NL launched its Collective Memories Project - an initiative which invites seniors to record their stories and memories for archiving and sharing. It was established as a joint project of Heritage NL, the Provincial Advisory Council on Aging and Seniors, the Interdepartmental Working Group on Aging and Seniors, and the Department of Seniors Wellness and Social Development.  

The Collective Memories Project is an umbrella for a number of initiatives designed to create venues for community members to come together to share ideas, experiences, memories, and traditional knowledge. One of our tools is the “Memory Mug Up” program, initially developed by Dr. Martha McDonald at the Labrador Institute. As she describes it, “A mug-up is a snack that people have when they're in the woods,” and the idea behind the Memory Mug Up is easy to apply anywhere.

“One thing we wanted to do was community outreach,” McDonald says, “and so we thought it would be a good idea to just go visit people in their communities and talk to them about days gone by, a very simple idea.” The goal is to help participants share and preserve their stories: a personal story, a story about a family member, or a story about the community as a whole.

Often, the Memory Mug Up is the start of a longer conversation. Community storytelling sessions help identify tradition bearers and knowledge keepers. We record their names, and follow up with one-on-one oral history interviews. All of these are archived in partnership with a local university. Then, we develop online content, short digital storytelling videos, or community history booklets from some of these collected stories.  An important part of keeping stories alive is to make sure that collected materials get back out to the community, and ensuring people’s memories don’t languish on a shelf in an archive. One of the first booklets in our Collective Memories Series featured the experience of five City of St. John’s volunteers and their reflections and advice on volunteering in the community.

Stories of our elders are an important part of understanding our historic places.  The Historic Places Initiative defined heritage value as: “the aesthetic, historic, scientific, cultural, social or spiritual importance or significance for past, present or future generations.”  All of these are related to our collective memories, and the knowledge of those who came before us.  You can’t save historic places without also collecting the stories associated with them, so Heritage NL assists to make existing oral history collections more accessible to the general public, and can help communities start up new oral history projects to interview local seniors. 

Over the course of several years, we’ve come to realize that these projects benefit more than just us as a heritage organization.  Event organizers in particular stressed how beneficial the project was for the seniors of their community, and for community pride. Several people noted the importance of capturing seniors’ stories. A recurring theme was a call to continue to make sure seniors are involved in safeguarding their heritage.

Heritage projects that involve seniors in all parts of the process validate and recognize the contributions of seniors to our communities. They reduce isolation of seniors at risk, and support mental and emotional health and well-being. They also can support mentorship of younger people by their elders through intergenerational exchange.

For more information on how Heritage NL engages seniors in heritage work, email folklorist Dale Jarvis at To see publications resulting from this work go to:

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Volunteers collect shipyard memories as part of the Marystown Oral History Project.

Construction of the Marystown Shipyard circa 1965

Marystown, located on the Burin Peninsula, has a long history related to the ship building industry. Concerned that some of these stories might be lost, volunteer Patrick Baker has been working with community members to record interviews with local citizens.

To date, 12 of these interviews have been placed online as part of Memorial University's Digital Archives Initiative, where they are accessible to researchers, students, and anyone interested in Marystown's rich heritage.

You can browse the collection at:

Interested in starting a similar project in your community? Email 

Photo credit: The History of Shipbuilding in Marystown, NL

Friday, March 19, 2021

Living Heritage Podcast Ep202 Black Cat Cemetery Preservation

Black Cat Cemetery Preservation specializes in historic gravestone and monument conservation and restoration in Canada. Husband and wife team Robyn Lacy and Ian Petty, have a combined 20 years of experience in the heritage sector as archaeologists, gravestone conservators, and cultural heritage technicians. They have worked across Canada and the United States, as well as on the Isle of Man, recording gravestones and cemeteries, conducting archaeological surveys, mapping sites, and evaluating heritage structures and landscapes.

What's that strange image on the stone? Listen in to find out!


Living Heritage 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.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Salmon Fishing on the Quinton Premises

Historic image of a schooner in Red Cliff

The Quinton Premises was an important, central, place of business in Bonavista Bay from the mid 19th century until the late 20th century. In fact, in an interview with Hilda and Dorothy Quinton, who both married into the Quinton family and worked for the premises for many years, the women recall that people would come from all over to package their fish and purchase bulk supplies from the shop. In this interview, Hilda and Dorothy also talk about the salmon fishery on the premises - and how the business would ship fish across Eastern Canada and as far as New York.

The salmon fishery was not a small operation. Dorothy told us that at its peak, she remembers they packaged and shipped 100 boxes of salmon in a day - with each box weighing around 100lb. Preparing salmon is a different process from preparing cod, in part because salmon needed to be kept cold unlike cod - which doesn’t need to be cold once salted. Before refrigerators were invented, and before electricity was installed in Red Cliff, the best way to keep salmon cold was with an ice house. In the winter, men from the town of Red Cliff would cut ice from nearby Tickle Cove Pond and stored in sawdust in the ice house to keep it from melting. During the fishing season, men would go up to the shore of Labrador to catch salmon in a schooner. When the salmon arrived on the premises it would be prepared and packaged in the icehouse before being sent off to North Sydney, where it would be re-iced and shipped off to its final destination.

While they didn’t fish themselves, Dorothy and Hilda played their part in the fishery as well. When the fishermen came into town the population would temporarily grow, with many people staying at or near the Quinton Premises during their stay. In addition to their duties in the shop, Hilda, Dorothy, and other women on the property would make sure that all the workers had something to eat. In fact, both Hilda and Dorothy made sure to tell us that getting to eat fresh, fatty salmon was the best part of the fishery!

Friday, March 12, 2021

Living Heritage Podcast Ep201 Shetland History and Folklore with Dr Andrew Jennings

Lerwick, Scotland. Image via swifant/wikimedia.

Dr Andrew Jennings is based in Lerwick, Shetland's capital. He enjoys everything about life in this beautiful archipelago, from rowing in the local yoal team and taking part in the Fire Festival, to walking the dog and experiencing the wild Shetland weather. Living in Scotland's most northerly islands, with their Nordic cultural inheritance, inspires his research and his teaching. He is the programme leader on the MLitt Viking Studies, Island Studies, Orkney and Shetland Studies and Highlands and Islands Literature.


Living Heritage 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.

Monday, March 8, 2021

Join us for our Baccalieu Trail Thriving Regions: Researcher Updates & Community Conversation March 19

Are you from the Baccalieu Trail Region? Join us for our Baccalieu Trail Thriving Regions: Researcher Updates & Community Conversation

On March 19th (Friday) from 11:30am - 1pm, the Harris Centre of Memorial University will be hosting a virtual session at which two of our researchers will present the results of their work: 

Hidden Gems of the Baccalieu Trail
Ms. Natalie Dignam 

Traditional Knowledge Inventory of the Baccalieu Trail: Mobilizing Intangible Cultural Heritage
Mr. Dale Jarvis 

There will be opportunities to ask questions of the two researchers and to explore potential opportunities for using their products.

Registration information can be found here on the Harris Centre website: 

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

New Publication on the Burgess Property, Whiteway NL

Burgess Property in 1948, taken by Margaret Mackintosh

Heritage NL has been researching the Burgess Property, a designated Registered Heritage Structure in Whiteway comprised of six buildings built throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Over 150 years and several generations of the Burgess family have operated fishing, coopering, and sawmilling industries from the property. Collectively, the Burgess Property buildings today are an excellent example of the diverse economies outport families participated in, in addition to showcasing typical Newfoundland vernacular architecture. Today, the property is still being taken care of by the sixth consecutive generation of Burgesses, and holds an impressive collection of historic documents and artefacts used throughout the building’s history. 

Working with the Burgess family, Heritage NL received an overwhelming amount of information carefully curated on the property. Using these resources and additional research, Heritage NL has created an initial report documenting the historic buildings currently on the property and mapping the historic landscape. 

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Folklore DIY tip of the day: How to make a tape log for a recorded audio interview

If you are working with archived audio material, or recording new audio interviews, a tape log will help you keep track of information, and make your recordings easier to search. 

Example of how to write a tape log:

Essentially there are three sections repeated over and over:

Minutes:Seconds of where the discussion topic starts 00:39 

Simple text description of topic                 his father’s work, Hiscock names his  


Semicolon separating description from new timestamp ;

In the body of the text, use commas to separate ideas within one topic, use the semicolon between topics to indicate a new starting timestamp. If writing a date use Day Month Year (28 February 1944 for example). 

This is what a finished tape log should look like:

00:00 Ben Hiscock from Champney’s West, Trinity Bay, NL describes how his father met his mother; 00:39 his father’s work, Hiscock names his grandparents; 1:12 Hiscock was born on 2 December 1942 and explains his name Benjamin St. Clare Hiscock and where it came from; 2:07 growing up in Champney’s West and how supportive the community was, changes in the community television, population, hydro, plumbing, telephone, question of what will happen in the community once the senior citizens pass away, need for something to keep the community going; 5:01 an early memory of growing up in Champney’s West and hammering a penny to close the hole in the penny in order to buy a ginger snap at the shop owned by Mr. Myer Goldsworthy; 7:42 describes fishing with his father, Fishing grounds, Hand lining and trawls, 9:16 changes in the fishery in Champney’s West with new technology and regulations; 11:45 Keeping up the fishing stages; 12:22 Change in visiting in the community; 13:01 the shipwreck of the Saladin on 28 December 1943; An older man went outside to use the washroom and heard people screaming, Local man made a bosun’s chair, Community men rescued the people from the Saladin, Local man Wilfred Hiscock who jumped out on the rock to save the men; 18:27 a bosun’s chair and the captain of the Saladin; 19:45 the shipwreck of the Hazel Pearl on 28 February 1944; Hazel Pearl hit the hard ice and sunk, how Wayne a local man salvages the spar from the Hazel Pearl; 22:10 other shipwrecks in the area such as the Mayflower; 22:38 story of the person buried on Fox Island, Describes how his family settled Fox Island, Hiscock suspects the body found in the bog on Fox Island which has long hair and was wrapped in a blanket was the grave of Joseph Hiscock; 26:35 why families moved from Fox Island to Champney’s West, the main family names in the community; 28:47 how the name of the community was changed from Salmon Cove to Champney’s West, Hiscock explains how he thinks Champney’s East is older than Champney’s West there are Champney’s West families buried in Champney’s Arm; 30:05 Champney’s West during World War Two blackouts, low flying planes; 32:14 Description of local characters, Story about a local character Bill who worked on the Labrador and put a pair of women’s underwear in a keg of molasses as a practical joke; 37:20 Description of Christmas when Hiscock was growing up visiting, caroling; 38:13 Description of mummering and mummering rig up, Visiting and drinking during Christmas; 40:17 Celebrating bonfire night, Stealing tubs to burn; 41:30 what he feels is the most important thing in the community to save, Description of square dancing, Language; 43:09 Description of who would play button accordion for square dancing, how many couples you would need.

Pro tip: Accession numbers are your friends! Make sure you label your log with the number/name of the sound file you are indexing! 

Watch the YouTube tutorial here: 

What Did You Do with Sawdust in Whiteway?

Whiteway, a community around Trinity Bay, was once home to two sawmills run by two different local families. The Drovers, who lived to the North of the brook which powered their mill, had a shingle mill which they established soon after arriving in Whiteway in the 19th century. The Burgess mill (pictured below) was established many decades after the Drover mill, in 1919. In both cases, milling provided some supplementary income to declining fishing wages and prospects. 

Photo of the Burgess Sawmill today. It is a short, long building, with an orange shingled exterior, a pair of wide garage doors painted red, and a regular door also painted red.

Beyond making Whiteway a great place to get lumber and shingles, these two mills also changed Whiteway’s landscape by producing mountains of sawdust through the milling process. The Drovers mill produced so much sawdust, in fact, that locals today highlight an area on the western portion of the north bank of the brook their mill was powered by as being the historic location of the ‘Drover’s Sawdust Pile.’ Similarly, members of the Burgess family recall a mount of sawdust being put between the house and mill until the mid 1920’s, when a garage was built. After that period, sawdust was piled behind the sawmill.

Far from being useless, sawdust is a very versatile material because of its insulating properties. In the case of Whiteway, the abundance of sawdust made it an easy material to use to help preserve ice after the winter. Some of the Burgess family today even recall that in the winter, blocks of ice were cut from Jimmy Rowe’s Pond and buried in sawdust. The ice was used to preserve salmon which had been caught out in the bay, which was later sold to the Harnum's in Hearts Delight, Cramm's in Green’s Harbour, and the Moores in Carbonear. Saws used to cut ice from Jimmy Rowe’s pond remain in the Burgess sawmill to this day. As Bob Burgess writes,

‘Once the ponds froze over, the horse and sled would be driven across the pond in the morning, logs would be hauled out before lunch time, lunch was eaten and our uncles would change out of sweat-filled clothes, then head back across the pond to bring out more wood. This continued until the pond ice broke up in the spring.’

Below, you can see a painted wood carving of the Burgess family collecting ice to be stored in sawdust. Today, the piles of sawdust that were once around Whiteway are gone, and the mills have fallen out of use, but the legacies of the Drover and Burgess milling enterprises continue to be featured in local historic accounts.