Her­itage with a hook

Mu­seum afi­cionado pass­ing his knowl­edge to studtents


Two sum­mer em­ploy­ees at a mu­seum in Spa­niard’s Bay are get­ting lessons from an ex­pert on just how fas­ci­nat­ing it can be to work with his­tory.

Spa­niard’s Bay na­tive Wal­ter Ped­dle is spend­ing time on Mon­day morn­ings teach­ing the sum­mer stu­dents - Michael Mercer and Colleen Mercer - about mu­seum ex­hi­bi­tions and about the rel­e­vance of his­toric sites.

It’s all tak­ing place at the Wes­ley Gosse Me­mo­rial United Church Her­itage Build­ing, which is the for­mer United Church. The fa­cil­ity is both an his­toric site and home to the Spa­niard’s Bay Mu­seum.

From a hearse to a birch broom; from a pow­der horn to a knife sharp­en­ing box, hun­dreds of ar­ti­facts have been do­nated to the Spa­niard’s Bay Her­itage So­ci­ety and are now on dis­play at the mu­seum.

Ped­dle brings a wealth of ex­pe­ri­ence. He worked at the pro­vin­cial mu­seum in St. John’s for two decades and taught at Me­mo­rial Uni­ver­sity for about 10 years, at both the uni­ver­sity’s St. John’s and Har­low, Eng­land cam­puses.

His goal work­ing with the stu­dents is to show them that mu­seum work can be fas­ci­nat­ing and fun.

“ This is an op­por­tu­nity for them to learn mu­seum skills that some peo­ple who have been work­ing in mu­se­ums all their life may not have acquired,” he said.

Once you know how to read ob­jects, Ped­dle added, you can make them “come alive” by mak­ing them rel­e­vant to to­day’s so­ci­ety.

An old hooked mat laid out on a ta­ble, for ex­am­ple, an at­ten­tion-grab­ber. There are dif­fer­ent ways a mu­seum worker can ac­quaint their au­di­ence with a par­tic­u­lar ar­ti­fact, Ped­dle said, run­ning his hand over the mat.

You can give a lot more in­for­ma­tion than what the ob­ject is and the date it was made to draw peo­ple in, he ex­plained.

Ped­dle sug­gested that work­ers fo­cus on the mat-mak­ing process and have il­lus­tra­tions on hand, as well as tools used to hook mats.

The mu­seum worker can also talk about how, in days gone by, peo­ple held “ hook­ing bees” as a form of en­ter­tain­ment, he noted.

“ You can re­ally make it come alive to tourists by set­ting up mat frames to get peo­ple in­volved in the process of hook­ing,” Ped­dle said.

It’s in­ter­est­ing as well, he stated, to talk about what hap­pens to the mats once they are com­pleted.

While con­sid­ered works of art to­day, mats were used for prac­ti­cal pur­poses years ago - mainly to keep the cold out from seep­ing in un­der door-frames and walls.

Mats with flo­ral de­signs were of­ten placed on the floor in the par­lour, while those with geo­met­ric im­ages found a home on the kitchen floor. Some­times the mat hook­ers got pat­terns from lo­cal mer­chants. Of­ten­times, they made up their own de­signs, Ped­dle said.

Talk­ing about the de­sign and size is a great way to en­gage peo­ple in the mat hook­ing process. The type of ma­te­rial used can help de­ter­mine when the mat was made, he said.

Ped­dle ref­er­ences a book on New­found­land hooked mats or­ga­nized by Me­mo­rial Uni­ver­sity’s Art Gallery. Turn­ing to a par­tic­u­lar page in the book, Ped­dle reads how one women from Boat Har­bour loved hook­ing her mats so much that she would put her clock back half-an-hour so her hus­band, asleep on the daybed, wouldn’t re­al­ize it was so late.

The two stu­dents say they are ben­e­fit­ing from the ex­pe­ri­ence.

“And a lot of peo­ple want to see the pic­ture we have here of Spa­niard’s Bay. It was taken in 1938,” 20-year-old Colleen Mercer said of the large framed photo.

“Other peo­ple who come in here know what they want to see and they don’t ask a lot of ques­tions,” 18-yearold Michael Mercer added.

Mean­while, it’s been less than four years since the her­itage so­ci­ety took over the build­ing. So­ci­ety chair Calvin Crane said there is no short­age of ar­ti­facts for the stu­dents to work with.

“ We’re at the point now that we have to be a bit choosy in what we can ac­cept,” he said.

Crane is de­lighted that Ped­dle has come on­board to help the stu­dents learn more about mu­seum work and his­toric sites. He en­cour­aged in­di­vid­u­als or groups in­ter­ested in get­ting in on the teach­ing ses­sions to show up at the mu­seum on Mon­day morn­ings from 10 to 11 a.m. The ses­sions are free-of-charge.

The mu­seum is open to the pub­lic un­til dur­ing the sum­mer months from Tues­day to Satur­day, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on Sun­day from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Spa­niard’s Bay na­tive Wal­ter Ped­dle is spend­ing time on Mon­day morn­ings teach­ing the sum­mer stu­dents about mu­seum ex­hi­bi­tions and about the rel­e­vance of his­toric sites.

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