President's Report 2006 | Campus Life

CNS marks four decades of preserving province's past

Joan Ritcey

Memorial's Centre for Newfoundland Studies (CNS) recently marked a milestone — 40 years of collecting material relating to Newfoundland and Labrador. Since 1965, the facility has become the primary research centre for anybody — including authors and scholars; students and family genealogists investigating anything about this province. The CNS is home to an amazing 75,000 volumes and holds the largest collection of Newfoundland material in the world.

The centre holds everything from the latest magazines and government reports to light material such as joke books and novels as well as treatises, the best literature the country has produced and reference tools such the Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador, phonebooks and the census. Patrons can find books, periodicals, microfilm, maps, pamphlets and electronic materials in the centre covering a huge range of topics including literary works, histories and folklore collections, as well as documents on applied sciences, the fishery, mining, pulp and paper and oil and gas. There are file folders packed with newspaper clippings on every community in the province, old school yearbooks as well as more contemporary items such as yesterday's newspaper and politicians' speeches.

Memorial University has always had a vested interest in documenting and collecting material about this province's history. Armed with a Carnegie grant in the 1950s, Ms. Agnes O'Dea who came to work at the Memorial University College library began to identify and purchase documents about the province. With great foresight, the university administration gave her permission to create a regional library collection on Newfoundland which, in 1965, became the CNS.

Starting with about 40 books on a few shelves, Ms. O'Dea began the extensive task of collecting every known published work about Newfoundland and Labrador. By the time she retired in 1976, the collection had grown to 20,000 volumes. The next head, Anne Hart, further built the collection to approximately 65,000 between 1976 and 1998.

The current CNS relocated from the Henrietta Harvey Building to the massive Queen Elizabeth II Library in 1982 and today welcomes hundreds of patrons, including faculty, staff, students, members of the community and out-of-province visitors, each month.