Carbonear mu­seum dis­play­ing authen­tic war mem­o­ra­bilia

Old Post Of­fice pre­serv­ing com­mu­nity’s his­tory

The Compass - - Sports - BY CHRIS LEWIS chris.lewis@cb­n­com­

Plenty of hard work and ded­i­ca­tion has been go­ing into one of Carbonear’s three mu­se­ums this sum­mer sea­son.

The Carbonear Her­itage So­ci­ety con­sists of some 20 vol­un­teers, with more join­ing the ranks ev­ery year. Their main goal is to en­sure Carbonear’s ex­ten­sive his­tory is not lost by keep­ing ar­ti­facts and other pre­cious pieces of Carbonear’s past doc­u­mented, stored and pro­tected.

How­ever, the So­ci­ety does not just keep these items for them­selves, to be locked away in a dark room. In­stead, they’ve un­der­taken the Old Post Of­fice build­ing, lo­cated on Wa­ter Street – just down the road from Carbonear’s other two mu­se­ums. Here, they dis­play the many items that have been do­nated to them over the years, along­side any in­for­ma­tion they can pro­vide about it as the con­nec­tion it has to Carbonear. Some of the ob­jects peo­ple can come see in­clude old tele­phones and ra­dios from years gone by, as well as some pieces from the build­ing it­self, which has served as a bank, cus­toms of­fice, and a num­ber of other things over the many years it has stood on Wa­ter Street.

“We’re man­dated to pro­tect ar­ti­facts that are re­lated to the Carbonear area. We take an item – same as you’d take a book in a li­brary – and we put a num­ber on it, doc­u­ment it, and put it here,” said Keith Thomas, a long-time mem­ber of the Carbonear Her­itage So­ci­ety. “We’ll keep it and pro­tect it for as long as we can pos­si­bly pro­tect it.”

This pro­tec­tion goes well beyond glass cages sur­round­ing these items. The mu­seum is spe­cially de­signed to en­sure the ar­ti­facts stored there re­tain as much of their orig­i­nal iden­ti­ties as pos­si­ble, right down to the win­dows of the build­ing, which have been tinted to avoid any UV rays from dam­ag­ing the pieces. Old let­ters and doc­u­men­ta­tion can also be seen in the up­stairs por­tion of the build­ing, where the main of­fices are lo­cated. Even these pa­pers have been wrapped in acid-free sleeves to avoid any grad­ual da­m­age be­ing done to them.

“What we de­cided to do is, over the years, put some of our items on dis­play for peo­ple to come and see just what kind of his­tory Carbonear has,” said Thomas, backed by a wall full of old doc­u­ments and let­ters dat­ing back to gen­er­a­tions of peo­ple long since de­ceased.

“Ev­ery year, we’ll take a look through the ex­hibits and items, and de­cide whether some need to be changed, or even re­moved to make room for other things that we have here.”

One of the new­est ad­di­tions to the mu­seum is an ex­hibit de­tail­ing the ef­forts of war veter­ans from the First and Sec­ond World Wars, com­plete with in­fo­graph­ics span­ning the length of one of the mu­seum’s walls, along­side a glass dis­play case with gen­uine uni­forms and out­fits of soldiers of the era.

This ex­hibit was put to­gether by Wil­liam Ford, a mil­i­tary his­to­rian with 38 years of ser­vice un­der his belt, as well as a mem­ber of the Carbonear Her­itage So­ci­ety. Ford boasts an ex­ten­sive un­der­stand­ing and knowl­edge of the wars, as well as a sig­nif­i­cant col­lec­tion of items that he’s hap­pily do­nated to the mu­seum to be put on dis­play.

“Ev­ery­thing in the dis­play case – the uni­forms, ev­ery­thing – are 100 per cent orig­i­nal. It’s all 100 per cent orig­i­nal to the pe­riod of World War I and World War II,” Ford ex­plained, call­ing the ex­hibit a labour of his love. “A lot of work goes into these boards and dis­plays, but it’s re­ward­ing to see them up and on dis­play for every­one like this.”

One of the uni­forms on dis­play be­longed to John Cor­nish, a Sec­ond World War sergeant, as well as res­i­dent of Carbonear. Cor­nish, who was also Thomas’ un­cle, lived in the build­ing lo­cated just across the street from the mu­seum. Across from that build­ing again is Cor­nish’s face, printed on one of the many ban­ners that dot Wa­ter Street in Carbonear which hon­our the legacy of the dozens of lo­cal soldiers who risked their lives in the First and Sec­ond World Wars. Cor­nish’s fa­ther, John Cor­nish Sr. served in the First World War, and his face can also be seen on one of the ban­ners.

“We do get some tourists come through here, and they al­ways have good things to say, but we’d like to see even more peo­ple come through. I think this mu­seum some­times gets lost when tourists come through, be­cause we’re the last one when you come down Wa­ter Street, but we have a lot to of­fer tourists who want to learn,” said Thomas, not­ing in par­tic­u­lar ob­jects such as the mu­seum’s authen­tic soldier’s hat from the First World War – some­thing very few mu­se­ums out­side of St. John’s have on dis­play.

The Old Post Of­fice mu­seum is open through­out the sum­mer sea­son, from early July to late Au­gust, for any tourists wish­ing to take a look at the ar­ti­facts on dis­play.


Wil­liam Ford is a mem­ber of the Carbonear Her­itage So­ci­ety, and re­cently used his ex­ten­sive knowl­edge of the First and Sec­ond World Wars to cre­ate a new ex­hibit in the Old Post Of­fice mu­seum.

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