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Carbonear museum displaying authentic war memorabilia

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.
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. - Chris Lewis

Old Post Office preserving community’s history

CARBONEAR, N.L. — 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.

chris.lewis@cbncompass.ca
Twitter: @chrislewis013

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