Bay Roberts mu­seum, gallery shines spotlight on her­itage

Still bring­ing in new ar­ti­facts, art­work for public dis­play

The Compass - - Front page - BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON

BAY ROBERTS, NL — The Road to Yes­ter­day Mu­seum and Christo­pher Pratt Gallery show no signs of let­ting up when it comes to pro­mot­ing the his­tory and cul­ture of the Bay Roberts area.

Sit­u­ated in­side the old Western Union Cable Build­ing that the non-profit Bay Roberts Her­itage So­ci­ety took over and man­aged to se­cure funds to fix up, the mu­seum and gallery serve a com­ple­men­tary pur­pose. The gallery opened in 1999, with the mu­seum to fol­low a year later.

The mu­seum, as its name al­ludes to, al­lows vis­i­tors to take a walk through the busi­nesses that oc­cu­pied Bay Roberts many decades ago. You’ll find a gen­eral store, forge, seam­stress shop, print shop, cooper­age for mak­ing bar­rels, cloth­ing store and other sites.

“We laid it out to fol­low our theme,” ex­plained Eric Jer­rett, chair of the lo­cal her­itage so­ci­ety. “We’ve got a whole lot of stuff packed into a small space.”

Vol­un­teers and sum­mer stu­dents have largely looked af­ter re­search for the mu­seum and all ex­hibits have been tin­kered with over the years, in­cor­po­rat­ing new ar­ti­facts the mu­seum ob­tains.

The gallery, which has tem­per­a­ture and hu­mid­ity con­trol, got its start thanks to a con­sid­er­able do­na­tion of Pratt’s work from the artist him­self. For years, it also re­lied on an agree­ment with the pro­vin­cial art gallery (now a part of The Rooms in St. John’s) to ro­tate pieces from its col­lec­tion for dis­play in Bay Roberts. All art re­flects the cul­ture of New­found­land and Labrador in some fash­ion.

This year, the gallery finds it­self re­ly­ing on other re­sources to dis­play pieces new to its walls. Be­tween do­na­tions and loans from artists and pri­vate col­lec­tors, the gallery man­aged to cover the walls of two rooms fea­tur­ing artists other than Pratt. This sum­mer the gallery has art­work new to its walls by Mary Pratt, Ge­orge Nose­wor­thy and Gary Kennedy, amongst oth­ers.

“Ev­ery sum­mer you come in here, you’re go­ing to see some old work that you saw be­fore, but you’re also go­ing to see some new work you haven’t seen yet,” said Jer­rett. “It’s work­ing out quite well.”

Med­i­cal items

Within the mu­seum this year, some re­cently ac­quired sur­gi­cal tools once used by Dr. Wil­liam Fraser will be dis­played for the first time. Fraser worked in the Bay Roberts area for over 25 years and was the first doc­tor out­side of St. John’s to use anes­the­sia in New­found­land.

“Two years ago, I guess it was his great-great niece or some­thing, she said, ‘Would you be in­ter­ested in tak­ing that in your mu­seum?’ I said, ‘Ab­so­lutely. This is Bay Roberts his­tory.’”

Jer­rett said the mu­seum reg­u­larly re­ceives of­fers from the public to take items of in­ter­est.

“As peo­ple come in, we see if we can ac­com­mo­date them, so our ex­hibits are chang­ing — some minute changes — all the time,” he said. “But then as we move along, we try to up­grade other things.”

In the room ded­i­cated to mil­i­tary his­tory, new trans­par­ent dis­plays are af­fixed to the win­dows fea­tur­ing im­ages of lo­cal vet­er­ans and oth­ers who con­trib­uted to war ef­forts. Jer­rett said the mu­seum’s war mem­o­ra­bilia col­lec­tion has grown con­sid­er­ably over the years.

The fact the mu­seum re­ceives so many com­pli­ments from vis­i­tors is en­cour­ag­ing for Jer­rett, who adds he’s heard mul­ti­ple peo­ple re­fer to it as the best com­mu­nity mu­seum they’ve ever vis­ited. How­ever, he would love more res­i­dents to drop by and check out what the mu­seum and gallery have to of­fer.

“There’s some peo­ple in Bay Roberts that have never been in the build­ing,” Jer­rett added.

Among the most en­thu­si­as­tic vis­i­tors he’s come across are chil­dren, who tend to find ar­ti­facts and dis­plays show­cas­ing the old way of life fas­ci­nat­ing.

“We’ve had cases where kids have been in as part of a class — whether it be Brown­ies, Girl Guides or what­ever — and came back later with their par­ents or grand­par­ents, be­cause they wanted to come back again. We’ve had kids come back three or four times to go through it again.”


The Road to Yes­ter­day Mu­seum has sev­eral his­toric ar­ti­cles of cloth­ing. The red vest pic­tured here was made in the late-18th cen­tury.

The Christo­pher Pratt Gallery fea­tures sev­eral pieces cre­ated by the fa­mous New­found­land painter.

The mil­i­tary room of the Road to Yes­ter­day Mu­seum has new dis­plays on its win­dows.

A replica of what you’d see around the cash regis­ter of a gen­eral store decades ago.

A lino­type ma­chine once used in Russell’s Print Shop, which later be­came D.B. Russell Print­ing.

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