Rid­ing into his­tory

Cer­e­mony marks open­ing of ren­o­vated rail­way sta­tion, Car­bon­ear Is­land ex­hibit


Ef­forts to pre­serve and pro­mote the his­tory of the Car­bon­ear area were cel­e­brated last week dur­ing the of­fi­cial open­ing of the ren­o­vated Car­bon­ear Rail­way Mu­seum.

Among the high­lights of the cer­e­mony was the in­tro­duc­tion of a new ex­hibit ded­i­cated to the long and tu­mul­tuous his­tory of Car­bon­ear Is­land.

The ex­hibit is called “ Traces of the Past.”

The ex­hibit high­lights how res­i­dents in the late 1600s and early 1700s gath­ered on Car­bon­ear Is­land to suc­cess­fully re­pel Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville and his forces, which were at­tack­ing New­found­land’s coastal set­tle­ments.

A video in­ter­view with Peter Pope, a Me­mo­rial Univer­sity pro­fes­sor, sets the his­tor­i­cal con­text. A dis­play of ar­ti­facts, found dur­ing an arche­o­log­i­cal dig last sum­mer, shows the is­land’s use by civil­ians and the mil­i­tary.

The main ex­hibit room al­lows vis­i­tors to re­view the his­tory of the is­land un­der six the­matic ar­eas, from ex­plo­ration and early set­tle­ment in the 1600s to the present day.

Deputy mayor Ches Ash ac­knowl­edged the ex­hibit’s im­por­tance to the town’s his­tory.

“ We be­lieve it’s of na­tional sig­nif­i­cance. If the peo­ple of Car­bon­ear had not found refuge on the is­land, which with­stood the French at­tack, it could very well be that English set­tle­ment in New­found­land would have taken a dif­fer­ent turn than it did,” Ash said.

A hu­mor­ous lieu­tenant-gov­er­nor

The guest speaker was Lt.-Gov. John Cros­bie, spoke about the need of do­ing “all we can to point out to peo­ple wha t w e h av e i n thi s prov­ince.”

He called the ex­hibit a “ very im­por­tant lo­cal ini­tia­tive” and a “ma­jor step for­ward for Car­bon­ear. You’re go­ing to find this a ma­jor as­set for this com­mu­nity and this beau­ti­ful part of Con­cep­tion Bay.”

Other in­vited dig­ni­taries in­cluded Avalon MP Scott An­drews and other rep­re­sen­ta­tives from fed­eral, pro­vin­cial and mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ments. The Car­bon­ear Her­itage So­ci­ety was also rep­re­sented.

Pro­ject fund­ing

The pro­ject was made pos­si­ble through fund­ing from both gov­ern­ment and pri­vate sources, amount­ing to in ex­cess of $250,000, in­clud­ing the fol­low­ing:

• At­lantic Canada Op­por­tu­ni­ties Agency — $100,000;

• In­no­va­tion, Trade and Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment — $60,000;

• Hu­man Re­sources, Labour and Em­ploy­ment — $67,672;

• Town of Car­bon­ear — in-kind and other cash con­tri­bu­tions to­talling some $30,000;

• Funds to fi­nance an arche­o­log­i­cal dig on the is­land in 2010, and again this year, were pro­vided by the phil­an­thropic Gill Rat­cliffe Foun­da­tion.

Eli­nor Gill Rat­cliffe, whose mother was born in Car­bon­ear, en­thused, “ I feel I own part of this place ... I couldn’t be more pleased for you all.”

She and her late hus­band, Ed­ward Rat­cliffe, founder of Ar­riscraft In­ter­na­tional, have funded nu­mer­ous projects around the world.

The of­fi­cial rib­bon-cut­ting cer­e­mony was per­formed by the lieu­tenant-gov­er­nor and his wife, Jane.

Mayor Sam Slade re­ferred to what the ex­hibit “does for us as a town” in at­tract­ing tourists.

“ We help pre­serve our his­tory, we help pro­mote it, and we con­trib­ute to the econ­omy of the area,” said Ash.

Eli­nor Gill Rat­cliffe of the phil­an­thropic Gill Rat­cliffe Foun­da­tion funded an arche­o­log­i­cal dig on Car­bon­ear Is­land in 2010, and again this year.

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