President's Report 2006 | today.mun.ca

Exhibit showcases Christmases past

Linda White of the Archives and Manuscripts Division admires one of the dozens of old-time Christmas cards currently on display in the Arts and Administration Building on Memorial's St. John's campus.

Dozens of old-time Christmas cards - some dating back to a century ago - have been plucked from archival boxes and put on prominent display on Memorial's St. John's campus just in time for the holidays.

The Job Kean Christmas Card Collection is a new exhibit designed by Linda White of Memorial's Archives and Manuscripts Division and Rosemary Healy of the Centre for Newfoundland Studies.

The cards are on display on the first floor of the Arts and Administration Building near the Reid Theatre.

The exhibit includes 40 beautifully designed cards with quaint holiday and New Year messages. They're just a snippet of a larger collection discovered in a home in Brookfield, Bonavista Bay which once belonged to the famous Kean family of Newfoundland.

“In 1997 Janet Davis and Duke Kelloway, from Wesleyville, became the new owners of the old Job Kean premises in Brookfield,” said Ms White. “Among the items purchased with the house were hundreds of Christmas cards dating from 1905 to 1926.”

The cards were eventually donated to the Archives and Manuscripts Division, which is housed on the lower level of the Queen Elizabeth II Library.

The Keans were seafaring people and are well known throughout this province. Captain Job's uncle was the famous Capt. Abram Kean, the most successful sealing captain in Newfoundland history. Capt. Job participated in the seal fishery in the spring of the year and in the cod fishery on the Labrador in the summer.

Capt. Job Kean eventually married Virtue Hann and built a three-storey Mansard-roofed house in Norton's Cove, which was later renamed Brookfield, in 1884 and opened a shop that supplied ships' provisions.

“The Kean shop was the centre of commerce in the Brookfield area,” explained Ms White. “In addition, Virtue ran the telegraph and post office from these premises. Virtue also became famous as a poet and a songwriter. According to tradition, she wrote the folksong “Lukey's Boat” and performed it one night at the Methodist Church Hall as a way of poking fun at local resident Luke Gaulton, the great-grandfather of MUN's Rennie Gaulton who teaches in the Psychology Department.”

Virtue Kean eventually died in 1929 leaving the family business to her son, Baxter. Upon his death, the business was handed over to his nephew Capt. Job Kean, who was named after his grandfather, and was the son of Charlie Kean. He eventually closed up shop in the 1970s and moved to St. John's.

“Today there is a new and thriving enterprise on the old Kean property. Janet Davis, after lovingly restoring the shop to its former glory, operates the Norton's Cove Studio from there,” said Ms White. “Janet offers art classes and workshops as well as the sale of original artwork in the award-winning heritage structure.”

The Christmas Card Collection will be on display until after the holidays.

(Originally posted on today.mun.ca on Dec 19, 2005)